On November 6, nine out of three students of the Tansi International College, Awka, Anambra State were killed on the spot by lightning while playing on the school’s football pitch during a rainfall.

It was reported that the students were seen ‘trembling and jerking on the turf,’ when the lighting stuck them on the field. While six were resuscitated, three unfortunately lost their lives.

Lightning is an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storm clouds and the ground, or within the clouds themselves. Most lightning occurs within the clouds.

According to a Senior Registrar of Public Health, Adewale Adebanjo, “Thunderstrike is a lightning event that takes place between the atmosphere and the ground.

“This can happen in two ways; direct and indirect. It can occur outdoors and also indoors if appropriate safety measures are not taken to stay safe indoors.

The public health expert noted that the direct thunder strike occurs majorly and it has to do with when there is a direct strike on a person and there is contact injury. Touching objects that conduct electricity when it is raining can conduct some energy and cause direct thunder strikes.

Similarly, National Geographic, a TV network that is a world leader in geography, cartography and exploration, explained that lightning is extremely hot and that a flash can heat the air around it to temperatures five times hotter than the sun’s surface.

It explained that the heat causes surrounding air to rapidly expand and vibrate, which creates the thunder we hear a short time after seeing a lightning flash.

When lightning strikes objects on the ground like trees, the earth itself becomes positively charged, creating an imbalance that nature seeks to remedy by passing current between the two charges, National Geographic stated.

The risk of dying by lightning strikes is relatively low, less than one in a million, said the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, while National Geographic put the yearly statistics of death by lightning at 2,000, adding that more people are struck but survive, usually with lingering and debilitating symptoms.

The public health expert said, “Lightning can affect the retina and cause cataracts in the long term. Hypertensive people can go into cardiac arrest and die, and it can also cause a person to go deaf the sound it produces is beyond 90 decibels.”

Meanwhile, here are seven tips to stay safe from thunderstrikes.

Swimming pools, rivers, lakes and ponds are not exactly places you should be when it is raining. This is because water is an excellent conductor of electricity and can significantly increase the chances of injury or death by lightning.

A Geologist, Micheal Okere, said standing in any pool of water is dangerous as rainwater is mineralised water, which contains a lot of ions and impurities that make it an excellent conductor of electricity, unlike distilled water.

Using electrical appliances connected to electricity during thunderstorms is quite risky and could expose a person to harm.

Adebanjo advised that it is best to avoid using electrical appliances and to unplug appliances from electric sources when there are thunderstorms.

A lightning rod is a metal usually fixed at the top of a building and it works by diverting the lightning to the ground. While the rod does not prevent the strike of lighting, it rather intercepts a lightning strike, provides a conductive path for the harmful electrical discharge to follow the appropriate cables and disperses the energy safely into the ground.

Okere noted that structures that need lightning arrestors are high-rise buildings and four-storey buildings upwards, and not necessarily bungalows.

Experts also revealed that a lightning arrestor in a house within an area can protect other houses nearby.

“Every house within an area doesn’t have to have it because it covers a wide area, he added.

An earthing rod is considered crucial to prevent electrical shocks. According to Prof. Olatunji, this is an alternative to the lightning rod. An earth rod provides a low resistance path to the ground for any fault current that flows through

Experts pointed out that in the event of an electrical shock, which includes lightning, the earth rod prevents the current from flowing through a person’s body or equipment and causing an electric shock.

Lightning strikes target tall objects so it is unwise to seek shelter under a tall tree or group of tall trees when it rains.

According to the US CDC, lightning often strikes people who work outside or engage in outdoor recreational activities. To minimise potential risks, seek appropriate shelter when it is raining.

Perhaps you have been caught in a thunderstorm while driving, no problem, Adebanjo said. According to him, the best way to avoid being struck by lightning while in a car is to wind up the windows.