Lightning struck and killed a 47-year-old grocery store owner in Kompong Cham province’s Dambe district on Thursday, bringing the total number of lightning fatalities so far this year to 48, government officials said on Friday.
According to Dambe commune police chief Toun Naiy, lightning struck Sles Sen and his wife Seth Samros as the coupled carried stock from his store through the rain and into their home. Mr Sen was killed instantly and his wife was knocked unconscious for about one hour, Mr Naiy said, adding that Mr Sen was standing about three meters from his wife when the bolt hit.
“Villagers do not get any precaution against lightning from any officials. I only just learned that we have to turn off televisions, radios and phone when the rain comes,” Mr Naiy said.
He said that some villagers claimed using mobile telephones was not dangerous because they had talked on them during previous lightning storms.
The winds and lightning that precede the downpours as storms sweep across the provinces can be especially punishing on small villages, commune chief Horn Keu said, adding that small huts and trees are often knocked down and that villagers receive little warning before storms begin.
Mr Keu also said that weather patterns seem to have shifted and that storms have become more violent in recent years.
“We still only get a brief precaution when we listen to the radio,” Mr Keu said.
Keu Vy, deputy director of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said on Friday that besides the official death toll of 48 people, 33 more have been injured by lightning so far this year and storms have destroyed 456 houses and torn the roof or walls of 1,930 more.
Traditionally, the NCDM has sent representatives out into the provinces to educate villagers about the dangers of lightning, but Mr Vy said that budget shortages this year have forced the committee to decrease the number of overall visits and skip some districts altogether.