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22 Deaths in Lightning Strikes in Guizhou

A total of 22 persons were killed and 56 injured in 149 lightning strikes by July 9 this year in southwest China's Guizhou Province, according to the provincial lightning prevention office.

Most deaths were farmers, office officials said. A recent tragedy on July 4 hit a family in Puding County, Anshun City, killing the husband and the daughter and hurting the wife in legs and the son in eyes. They were eating the evening meal under a light which might have become the conductor for lightning, according to Tang Baojun, office director.

In another similar case a father and a son were killed when they stayed under a light on a thunderstorm day, Tang said.

Tang said the province has a high frequency of lightning strikes. That deaths were mainly farmers was because they lack both lightning prevention knowledge and fund to install lightning-proof facilities. He suggested governments of all levels invest more money to spread knowledge on lightning in farmers and help them install necessary equipment.

In a remote rural village, nicknamed "the lightning village" in west of central China's Hunan Province, 11 local farmers were killed and 143 were injured in the past 25 years.

It is located in a lightning-prone area and its geographic location is vulnerable to lightning strikes, according to Xu Yongsheng, senior engineer of the provincial lightning prevention center.

Since the low-voltage lines were set up in the village in 1979,lightning strikes rose dramatically. Farmers lived in nightmare and had to cut off electricity wire when lightning happened. Some even considered to abolish use of electricity and abandon all wires.

In addition to human deaths and injures, 20 head of cattle were killed and over 100 head of domestic animals were injured. Lightning also damaged 150 TV sets and the village's transformer 11 times, according to eyewitnesses.

The provincial capital allocated 500,000 yuan for the village to install lightning prevention project. The first phase of the project has been completed with installation of a 220-meter-tall lightning rod tower near a local elementary school and other facilities. Farmers said the strikes have been on decline over the past three years since the project began.

The second and third phases of the project were yet to be started and experts said hidden dangers remained.

China has been on alert of lightning strikes in this summer thunderstorm season. An early report of a lightning strike that killed more than a dozen of villagers in east China's Zhejiang Province has prompted nationwide attention to lightning-related deaths and injures.

The Chinese capital of Beijing Saturday was hit by an unprecedented heavy rainstorm along with roaring lightning strikes, but no deaths and injures from lightning have been reported so far. The city is guarding against more thunderstorms that will follow as the meteorological station predicted.

(Xinhua News Agency July 11, 2004)


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