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Lightning Kills High Number This Season

Weather experts are warning citizens to take extra precautions during this rainy season, with a high number of deaths reported from lightning strikes in the city and the countryside.

Long Saravuth, director of the department of meteorology of the Ministry of Water Resources, said Monday the ministry has distributed an information booklet to help people in rural areas protect themselves from lightning.

At least two people died in Phnom Penh this week when they were hit by lightning, police said.

"We cannot prevent lightning strikes, but we can protect ourselves from them," Long Saravuth said.

By June, 35 people were killed by lightning, according to Disaster Management Committee figures, with much of the rainy season remaining. Last year, a total of 40 people died from lightning for the whole year.

In Cambodia, lightning strikes happen most in the provinces around the Tonle Sap lake, where conditions create turbulent cumulonimbus clouds, making lightning more common, Long Saravuth said.

In the city, lightning rods are used to protect people, he said, but these are not installed in the countryside.

In rural areas, when people walk in the open, they are the highest point around them and attract to lightning.

In the city, residents should ensure they have their houses properly wired and lightning rods installed. In the countryside, people should avoid working in fields during lightning storms. They should also avoid taking shelter directly under tall trees.

During a storm, people should remain at least 4 meters from tall trees, and they should avoid holding metal instruments, such as shovels or sickles.

The ministry plans to install lightning absorbing equipment around the Tonle Sap lake, which can help alleviate lightning and protect people in a 40-kilometer perimeter, but funds are not available to do so.

Nhim Vanda, vice president of the Disaster Management Committee, said it was difficult to prevent lightning in rural areas, because it can happen anywhere with no advance warning.

For Bor Savy, official warnings come too late. Her brother, Bor Thum, died this year in Kampong Cham province when he was hit by lightning as he dug in a canal during a storm.

Now, her family takes precautions by turning off the television and telephones during a storm.