Warning: Using your mobile phone in an electrical storm may be hazardous to your health.
Lightning hit dozens of sightseers at the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall this weekend. Fifteen people were slightly injured in the 2:40 PM strike on Saturday.
The 15 were sent to hospitals for treatment and by Sunday evening they had all been discharged in good condition, said an official with the Management Department of the Juyongguan Great Wall.
Witnesses said that an elderly person was using a mobile phone to make a call during a lightning storm.
The use of mobile phones in stormy weather has been previously reported in China as a cause of injuries and death. On June 23 this year, a woman was fatally struck by lightning on a street in Changchun, Jilin Province, while using a cellphone in bad weather.
It is very dangerous to use mobile phones where there is thunder and lightning, said Professor Liu Shuhua, of the Atmospheric Science Department at Peking University. The electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phones are good conductors for electricity. The phone acts as a lightning rod and the electrical current from the lightning is concentrated in it, he said.
In places with lightning rods, it would be safer to use mobile phones in stormy weather, said Zhu Pei, an expert with the School of Physics at Peking University. However, in open places it could cause death or injury. Connection to the communication network creates the risk, Zhu warned, and phones should be turned off in such open places during storms.
It is also very dangerous to use mobile phones in electric storms while at gasoline stations, Liu said. The combination of a strong positive electrical charge in the mobile phone and combustible gas could easily cause a fire or an explosion.
(China Daily July 26, 2004)