Deaths from lightning strikes are quite common in Thailand particularly in farms with open pastures where one lightning strike can kill many living beings including livestock and those caring for them. A direct hit from a lightning bolt can also leave those killed with hideous and gruesome injuries. There is concern that the number of lightning strikes in Thailand may be underreported as some experts see the phenomenon as growing in Southeast Asia in line with changing weather patterns.
The death of a 12-year-old schoolboy on a football pitch in Surat Thani province left his father inconsolable at Surat Thani Hospital in the centre of the province on Tuesday. The deadly phenomenon is a well-known threat to most Thai people and every year takes away lives particularly on farms.
A 12-year-old boy in Mathayomsuksa 1 or the western equivalent of first year in secondary school, was killed by a lightning strike on Tuesday as he played football with friends.
The horrific incident happened in the Khian Sa district of Surat Thani province in southern Thailand at a playing field near the district office in the area.
Boys had just come back onto the pitch to resume play when the strike came preceded by two thunderclaps
The boys had come to the pitch just after school and after beginning to play a thunderstorm blew up, leading them to halt and take shelter.
When the storm appeared to quieten down the boys came back onto the pitch but they were premature. Two thunderclaps were followed by a lightning strike which hit the centre of the football pitch.
Six boys were injured by the strike but a 12-year-old, named as Krisnapol Chansri, was pronounced dead on arrival at the local Surat Thani Hospital as the other 5 were taken into care.
Governor of Surat Thani visits 5 surviving boys
The dead boy’s distraught father had to be comforted by friends at the scene when he arrived there. Krishnapol was reportedly a pupil at the Yaowares School in the district.
The Governor of Surat Thani province, Wichwut Jinto and his assistant Suthipong Klai-udom, afterwards visited the five boys who survived the lightning strike at the hospital.
25,000 people die annually from lightning strikes
Thailand as a developing country with a tropical climate with many flat fields devoted to farming, is a lightning hotspot due to its global position as are countries in central Africa and South America.
Each year, across the world, 25,000 people are killed from lightning strikes caused primarily by cloud to ground strikes where the lightning can heat the air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit or five times hotter than the surface of the sun.
Bolts of lightning transfer a massive positive charge to the ground from negatively charged clouds
The bolts are caused by negative charges in the cloud sending a strike to earth which results in the discharge of positive charges to the ground.
Most people who die from lightning strikes do so from a cardiac shock as one single bolt can kill a large number of people at the same time when it hits the ground if they are not earthed.
In 2016, amid summer thunderstorms in the Thai provinces of Nan and Phrae, a Thai woman was killed with several farm animals in one strike.
It was another of the hundreds of lightning strike deaths that have been documented in Thailand over the last few decades with concerns that cases may be underreported as such deaths are seen as an act of nature.
Woman killed using her smartphone in Cha-am
In May 2017, 27-year-old Supranee Khuenkankong was killed by a lightning strike while sitting under a three on Cha-am beach in Phetchaburi province.
The woman was left with burns on her head and with blood pouring from her nose.
Police investigating her death believe the use of her mobile phone had caused her to be struck by lightning.
Experts believe that people can also be in danger from strikes while indoors if near windows or doors or if using old fashioned telephone landlines during a severe thunderstorm.
A direct hit can leave gruesome injuries
Thai farmers exposed to flat landscapes are particularly vulnerable to the threat as lightning seeks the highest point.
A direct hit from a lightning strike, in an open space, as well as being instantly lethal, can leave those it kills with gruesome physical injuries.
This happens regularly on Thai farms, particularly in northern Thailand during summer storms.
Tragedy in Khon Kaen in 2008 as two Australians and three teenagers taking part in a cultural exchange died in a horrific lightning strike at a scenic waterfall
In September 2008, two Australians, a teacher and a 19-year-old youth worker associated with a cultural exchange organised by the Winthrop Baptist Church in Perth in Western Australia died after a lightning strike near the Thad Tone waterfalls in Khon Kaen province.
The teacher, named as Greg Crombie, was one of three teachers and a teaching assistant leading a party of 11 Australians from the school on the visit to Thailand which turned into a tragedy for all concerned.
Three Thai teenagers from 14 to 17 years of age also died in the same incident, two at the location and one later in hospital from her injuries.
Experts say Southeast Asia rates are increasing
Experts in Southeast Asia over the last decade or so have suggested that the rates of lightning strikes and casualties in the region are rising and need to be properly analysed.
‘It is a growing problem in the region,’ says Hartono Zainal Abidin, a lightning expert from Malaysia. ‘Lightning incidents are indeed going up and so are the deaths and injuries but the problem is many countries in the region including Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand don’t even have proper experts and so the issue is left unaddressed.’
Linked to climate change as cause and symptom and the state of development of any country or region
UN-sponsored scientists and climate agencies such as the World Meteorological Organization as well as academics have long suggested a link between the frequency and extent of lightning strikes and climate change with some claims that the phenomenon is both a symptom and cause of the issue.
Some scientists argue that there is a cyclical nature to the phenomenon which affects countries worldwide although it is most pronounced in the tropics.
Another key factor is the level of development of the country or region.
There is a higher incidence of death in such places as rural parts of India, central Africa as well as Brazil and Venezuela in South America.