Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lightning Remains a Problem During the Rainy Season

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

Lightning is still a major concern for Cambodians as many are killed by lightning every year during the rainy season, according to Dr. Seth Vannareth, Deputy General Inspector and Director of the Meteorological Department in the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MoWRAM). She was speaking to The Southeast Asia weekly on July 17.

Dr. Vannareth said that according to a recent report, the number of Cambodian people who were killed by lightning has increased this year, compared to the same period the previous year. From January to May 2009, 95 people were killed by lightning in Cambodia while 50 people were killed throughout the whole year 2008.

She suggested that a possible reason for this was the increase in mobile phone use, lightning being attracted to these and other electronic devices. She also suggested that a lack of knowledge about protective measures was also responsible for the increase. Finally, she said that climate change and the hot temperatures of recent weeks had also played a part.

In response, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology has been working hard at community level to educate the people about how to avoid the dangers of lightning, said Dr. Vannareth.

According to the Doctor, the ministry has produced thousands of leaflets and brochures to create lightning awareness, and these have been distributed through MoWRAM’s provincial offices and departments since 2006.

Dr. Vannareth continued to say that since 1980, the government has setup lightning protection measures for all government ministries, departments and offices in cities and provinces throughout the country. The same is true for all private or international companies in Cambodia, as demanded by law.

MoWRAM also plans to set up a “lightning warning system” so that it will able to predict and inform the public in advance about the approach of electrical storms, she said, adding that MoWRAM will produce more leaflets and brochures.

To achieve MoWRAM’s goals, she called on private and international companies to sponsor training programs or help produce the leaflets so that they can reach all the nation’s people.

“I hope that if we are able to educate all our people about lightning and set up the lightning warning system, we will see a significant decrease in the number of deaths caused by lightning,” she said. “People can contribute to this right now by turning off their phones, computers and televisions when they see a storm approaching.”

Dr. Vannareth said that due to climate change and the change in direction of the Monsoon winds, there will be more rain, strong winds and clouds, along with thunder and storms in some parts of the country, especially areas located in the lower wet lands of Cambodia. She concluded that the rains will end in October.

According to estimates, about 27 storms in an average year are influenced by the South China Sea. However, with the shifts in the Monsoon winds, fewer storms are expected to hit Cambodia this year. ///

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