Lightning Kills 18 School Children

(KIRYANDONGO, UGANDA)

A lightning strike killed 18 children and their teacher in Kiryandongo, Uganda, on Wednesday (June 29) following unseasonably heavy rains that have hit the east African nation.

The lightning hit the victims in a classroom at a school in Kiryandongo, 130 miles north of Kampala, police said. Another 38 children were admitted to hospital.

"When it started raining, it rained and ended three times, we thought it was not going to rain again, then we saw bright light with very loud thunder and it hit our classroom, every body fell to the ground, some pupils died in my class but many died in primary six classroom, very many died," said an unidentified student who survived the lightning strike.

Police said 15 of the 38 injured on Monday were still in hospital being treated for burns.

Local media quoted medical officials in Kiryandongo predicting the death toll could rise.

Uganda has one of the highest rates of lightning strike deaths in the world and its capital Kampala has more days of lightning per year than any other city, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

The east African country has suffered a wave of fatal lightning strikes in recent weeks during the heavy rains.

The deaths were debated in parliament on Monday, with MPs calling on the government to come up with strategy to deal with what several termed "a crisis".

Local meteorologists have criticised the government for not providing enough lightning conductors for buildings in storm hotspots.

"Currently, we are having rains in a season which is supposed to be dry, especially for central and southern parts of the country, for the northern parts of the country yes we should be receiving rains, but in the southern parts it should be dry and warm. Now we are getting moist air from the Congo forest and when this moist air meets the hot air we have here, it rises and forms very deep clouds which are called thunderstorm clouds and it is these which are causing the lightning we are having around," said Meteorologist, Michael Nkalubo.

The state-owned New Vision newspaper said on Tuesday that at least 40 people had been killed by lightning strikes in recent weeks.

The police did not give an official death toll.

Many of the strikes have killed children.

Three siblings aged four, six and eight were killed while sheltering under a tree on their way home from school last week and another two children were killed the week before, police said.


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