Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Leaves a hun­dred ques­tions

- By Ka­sun Warakapi­tiya Sri Lanka

phone at the time, it cre­ates the im­pres­sion that it was the mo­bile phone that at­tracted the light­ning.

Dr. Fer­nando em­pha­sised there was no dan­ger of us­ing a mo­bile phone or cord­less phone in­side a house dur­ing light­ning, “so long as they are not plugged into an elec­tri­cal charger”. This was be­cause a light­ning strike could en­ter the house through the power lines.

The case was dif­fer­ent when us­ing fixed land­line phones. Us­ing a land­line dur­ing light­ning strikes was ex­tremely dan­ger­ous as light­ning can travel through the phone lines.

“In fact, the ad­vice we can give is to en­cour­age peo­ple to use mo­bile phones rather than land­lines if you want to com­mu­ni­cate in the event there is light­ning,” Dr. Fer­nando stressed.

The for­mer di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Me­te­o­rol­ogy, K.R. Abeysinghe, warned of light­ning haz­ards.

“If thun­der­storms are ac­tive and you are out­side, the best pre­cau­tion is to find shel­ter in a safe place to avoid ex­pos­ing your­self to the open air. If the time in­ter­val be­tween a light­ning flash and hear­ing thun­der be­comes less than 15 sec­onds, you should move quickly to a pro­tected lo­ca­tion, as there is im­me­di­ate dan­ger of a light­ning strike nearby,” he stressed.

In­doors, pre­cau­tions should be taken, in­clud­ing keep­ing elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances dis­con­nected from the main sup­ply line, dis­con­nect­ing tele­vi­sion an­ten­nas from tele­vi­sion sets and plac­ing the an­tenna socket out­side close to the earth, avoid­ing touch­ing tall metal struc­tures and not us­ing fixed line tele­phones dur­ing thun­der­storms should be taken.

Peo­ple who are caught out­doors dur­ing light­ning storms should avoid loi­ter­ing in open ar­eas such as paddy fields, tea es­tates or play­grounds. They should es­pe­cially avoid work­ing with metal tools such as mam­moties, knives or iron rods.

“If this can­not be avoided, crouch down [in­di­vid­u­ally] with feet to­gether. Footwear or a layer of any non-ab­sorb­ing ma­te­rial, such as plas­tic sheet, will of­fer some pro­tec­tion against ground

The fam­ily of 17-year-old school­boy Thilinda Chamika is still in dis­be­lief about the tragedy that struck the youth, who died due to elec­tro­cu­tion trig­gered by light­ning on Tues­day.

Thilinda’s 21-year- old sis­ter, Savithra Dil­ruk­shi Weeras­inghe, the sole wit­ness to what hap­pened, is un­able to con­trol her emo­tions as she re­counts how her brother was struck down.

At about 6.30 p.m. on that fate­ful day the two had been alone at home sit­ting on a bed and look­ing at mes­sages that Thilinda was show­ing his sis­ter on his mo­bile phone. It was rain­ing heav­ily at the time, with thun­der and light­ning.

Sud­denly there was loud burst of thun­der with a flash of light that mo­men­tar­ily blinded them.

“I closed my eyes and ears and when I opened my eyes my brother was stand­ing up and tak­ing a few steps. He had tossed the phone to the bed and was say­ing "Akki, Akki, my hands are go­ing numb’,” she re­called. At first, she thought her brother was play­ing a prank on her.

“He then col­lapsed on the floor and curled up in a ball. I hugged him and cried, and for five min­utes yelled for help from neigh­bours,” she said.

She ran out­side to find a ve­hi­cle and within 15 min­utes her brother was taken to hos­pi­tal – but he was pro­nounced dead on ar­rival.

She said at that time the phone charger was plugged into the wall socket, which later was found to have a power leak. The charger was not, how­ever, con­nected to the mo­bile phone that had been in the vic­tim’s hand at the time of the tragedy.

“The bed we were sit­ting on has a metal frame and the pin end of the charger was on the bed. It is pos­si­ble that this touched my brother’s hand and he was elec­tro­cuted,’ she said.

A post­mortem car­ried out by Ragama Hos­pi­tal Ju­di­cial Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer S.D. Gang­hawatte de­clared death had been caused by elec­tro­cu­tion. cur­rents,” Mr. Abeysinghe said.

Other things to avoid in­clude seek­ing shel­ter un­der tall trees or on high ground and rid­ing bi­cy­cles or any open ve­hi­cles such as trac­tors.

The Depart­ment of Me­te­o­rol­ogy is­sued a se­vere weather warn­ing on Fri­day evening, stat­ing that the at­mo­spheric dis­tur­bance in the vicin­ity of Sri Lanka was likely to in­ten­sify this week­end. It would move grad­u­ally to a de­pres­sion and come closer to Sri Lanka.

Un­der its in­flu­ence, strong winds and heavy rain­fall can be ex­pected over the coun­try and sur­round­ing sea ar­eas dur­ing May 15-18. “Very heavy rain falls are also ex­pected par­tic­u­larly over South­west­ern part of the coun­try,” the weather warn­ing bulletin said.

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