Since the beginning of this year, more than 90 people in Cambodia have died from lightning strikes. Lightning rods, devices that protect areas around homes by conducting static charges into the ground, are the most effective means of averting this danger.
The people most vulnerable to lightning strikes, however, are unable to afford them, according to government officials and lightning rod providers.
About 80 percent of lightning deaths occur in rural areas, with most victims working in the fields during the strikes, according to Keo Vy, deputy director of information at the National Committee for Disaster Management. Mr Vy said the least expensive lightning rod he knew of cost $700, which is already too costly for most people in the countryside.
“Even if it can help for protection, the cost of production makes it unavailable for villagers at the countryside, even some people in Phnom Penh,” he said. “The government’s budget is limited so we cannot afford to provide those products, so we just provide precaution and information about how they can prevent injuries by themselves.”
Mr Vy estimated that only about 10 to 20 percent of people in Phnom Penh would be able to afford lightning rods.
Comin Khmere, a building contractor that provides French-imported lightning rods, sells rods that range from $2,000 to $4,000. Another company, Dynamic E Group, offers lightning rods ranging from $1,150 to $2,200.
Ret Chantha, managing director of DEG, said that there were around 10 companies in Cambodia that provide lightning rods.
Mr Chantha said that since his company began offering lightning rods two years ago, it had sold on average 20 per month. However, only a handful were sold to buyers outside Phnom Penh, he added.
DEG receives about 10 phone calls every day from villagers inquiring about their lightning rods, Mr Chantha said.
“They call me a lot a day…. They want to install, but they don’t have enough money to buy,” he said, adding that in the near future, DEG hoped to discuss with banks how to provide loans for lightning rods.