China

Lightning kills 306 Chinese in three weeks

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BEIJING, Aug 16, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Lightning strikes killed 306 Chinese from June 25 to Aug. 16, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) announced on Thursday.

So far this year, 499 Chinese have been killed by lightning, 199 more than the same period last year, said the CMA.

China was more frequently hit by extreme weather conditions this year, said CMA head Zheng Guoguang.

Extreme weather was usually concentrated in summer and autumn, especially in July and August, he said, adding it was hard to forecast.

The meteorological disasters this year were of "various types, wide reaching, scattered and very intense", he said and pointed out that global warming increased the possibility of extreme weathers.

Zheng said east China's Jiangxi Province suffered most from lightning, which had killed 116 people in the province this year.

Research shows that all the victims were rural residents and 79 percent were working in fields where they were killed.

"People can protect themselves from lightning strikes by avoiding open spaces in lightning weather," said Zheng.

He said the lack of awareness contributed to the high death toll.

The China Association for Science and Technology and the CMA jointly launched a program on Thursday to raise awareness of weather dangers.

In early July, the Ministry of Education, the State Meteorological Administration (SMA) and the emergency office of the State Council jointly started a campaign to provide free materials on how to avoid lightning strikes to more than 420,000 high schools and primary schools nationwide.

The materials include DVDs of stories and cartoons and illustrations, showing how lightning forms and tips on how to avoid it.

The SMA has also initiated a two-month training program and more than 5,000 people have registered.

The program is designed to train practitioners in local meteorological units using the Internet and DVDs.

Figures from the CMA show that 19,982 accidents involving lightning strikes occurred in 2006 across the country, claiming 717 lives and injuring 640 people.