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Lightning devices strike nation

But the anti-surge technology may be prohibitively expensive for rural residents.

APRIVATE company has begun importing products to protect people and property from lightning strikes following an increase in electrical storms in recent wet seasons.

Ret Chantha, managing director of Dynamic E-Group Limited (DEG), said a reported increase in lightning deaths had prompted him to begin importing lightning protection devices.

"I am importing the products to prevent lightning deaths, which are higher than expected," he said Wednesday.

He said DEG's Voltage and Surge Protection Systems, imported from Spain, were designed to be installed in buildings to prevent lightning strikes within a radius of about 120 metres.

He said they could also protect electrical equipment from surges.

"These products don't impact the environment and are not dangerous for people and animals," he said.

"We can use them anywhere: in buildings, houses, schools and offices. They can prevent lightning 100 percent."

But the new devices don't come cheap. Prach Meanith, product manager at DEG, said the price would depend on the size of the building in question but noted that a device for a three-storey building measuring 6 metres by 12 metres would cost around US$2,000.

"We have a lot of clients, especially the high-level building engineers [who] know this product well and trust in it," he said.

Rising toll
Ros Sovann, a consultant at the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), said lightning killed 107 people in Cambodia while injuring 43 in just the first six months of 2009. The figures marked a dramatic increase from last year, in which lightning strikes led to 95 deaths and 22 injuries the entire year.

Kampong Cham, Prey Veng and Kampong Speu have been the provinces most heavily hit by lightning in the first half of the year.

Ing Heng, deputy dean of the faculty of science at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said lightning injuries had increased in the past 20 or 30 years due to the clearance of large trees, which tend to attract strikes.

"Before we had lightning in the forest. Empty rice fields haven't got big trees, so it is happening to people," he said.

Ros Sovann added that the lightning protection devices coul play an important role in heading off deaths and injuries, but he said people in the most affected areas might not be able to afford the new devices.

"I think that if we use those products as a standard we could avoid lightning problems altogether, but it might take a long time for people in rural areas," he said.

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