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Officials warn of lightning strikes

LIGHTNING strikes, which killed 140 people last year, claimed three lives through the first three months of 2010, including one on Wednesday, as officials said they were bracing for a sharp uptick in strikes as the rainy season approaches.

Keo Vy, a communications officer with the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), said two of the lightning deaths recorded so far this year took place in Pursat province – one in Kravanh district in February, and one in Bakan district last month. In addition, he said, a five cattle have been killed by lightning so far this year.

Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Hun Hean said 34-year-old Bun Bros of Poipet town was killed in a lightning strike on Wednesday.
Keo Vy said he could not provide a figure for deaths through the first three months of 2009, but noted that 50 people were killed by lightning through last April, and added that many of those deaths had occurred after the onset of the rainy season in April.

“Most lightning starts during March or April, when it starts to move from the dry season to the wet season, and it starts again when the weather changes from the wet season to the dry season,” Keo Vy said, adding that random strikes can also occur whenever rain falls unexpectedly during the dry season.

He said his office was working to educate people nationwide about the importance of taking precautions during storms – turning off mobile phones and radios, avoiding trees and electricity poles during storms and staying away from metal objects.

“We cannot prevent lightning, but we can avoid being struck by lightning,” he said.

Mao Hak, director of the Department of Hydrology and River Works at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, noted that there are no effective methods for forecasting the frequency of lightning storms this year.

“We cannot predict lightning strikes because they are a natural disaster, but what we have to do is broadcast and educate people to protect themselves,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH

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