Deaths Due To Lightning Reduced Drastically In Odisha

Lightning is one of the major natural disasters in Odisha, claiming hundreds of human lives annually. In 2017-18, 465 people died of lightning strikes while in the previous year 400 were killed. Sudam Marandi, Odisha’s disaster management minister, recently informed the assembly that lightning was the third major cause of death in Odisha since April 2016.

To tackle this situation, Odisha signed an agreement with Earth Networks of the United States last year which helped the Geographical Information System (GIS) predict lightning strikes about 45 minutes in advance. Earth Networks provides early lightning warning services in more than 50 countries, through its complex system. It takes into account the total lightning data from the last three years combined with sophisticated algorithms to generate dangerous thunderstorm alerts in advance.

In Odisha, once the data is processed and a prediction is in place, warnings are sent to subscribers of state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) in the vulnerable areas and the message is also broadcasted through social media. Furthermore, SMS alerts are sent through Location-Based Alert System (LBAS) to the people in these areas. “The entire operations from receipt of the information from Earth Networks till despatch of the SMSs are completed in 2-3 minutes,” said Odisha State Disaster Management Authority’s (OSDMA) Geographical Information System (GIS) expert BN Mishra.

The use of advanced technology combined with sincere efforts from officials has reduced the number of deaths caused due to lightning strikes by more than 30%. In 2018-19, 320 people died of lightning strikes against 465 in the previous year.

“We took a number of steps, including technological intervention that seems to have helped. Special campaigns were organised to raise awareness among the people about the lightning hazard and the safety measures for saving lives from the lightning incidents,” said the Managing director of Odisha State Disaster Management Authority Bishnupada Sethi.

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