A man in Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu died on Wednesday, June 6 while he was trying to take pictures of lightning in his mobile phone.
Police have identified him as HM Ramesh, from Thuraippaakm near Chennai, and said that the incident happened when he was visiting a friend's shrimp farm in Sunnampukkulam.
According to Hindustan Times, a police source from the nearby Arambakkam station said that the 43-year-old man tried to take a photo of lightning with his smartphone camera at around 3.30 pm. However, Ramesh collapsed after lightning struck him. When his friends tried to pick him up they found injuries on his face and chest.
Ramesh's body has been sent for post-mortem to the Ponneri Government hospital. Also, Tiruvallur district police have urged people not to try and click photos of lightning.
How does a lightning strike
Well, if you have ever imagined lightning falling from the sky on people and killing them, then you are indeed very naïve because that rarely happens.
Ron Holle, a meteorologist with Vaisala Global Atmospherics, Inc., in Tucson, Arizona says, according to Washington Post, that the lighting that hits someone directly from the sky is called a direct strike. The other form of lightning strike that kills someone taking bath after getting into the water pipes or someone talking over a phone with a cord after getting into wiring is called contact strike.
However, very few people die like this and the actual danger is the ground current, which spreads over the ground after lightning strikes. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 50-55 percent of all lightning deaths and injuries happen because of ground current.
What is ground current?
Lightning can contain up to one billion volts of electricity, according to National Geographic. When a lightning bolt hits Earth, the electricity spreads out across the ground in circles as a potentially deadly current, whose voltage decreases with distance.
According to Washington Post, lightning research photos have shown ground-current arcs (sparks) as far as 60 feet from the spot on the ground where the bolt had hit.
If someone stands in the way of the current, it can enter one's body through one leg, travel through the body, and leave from the other leg. In the process, it stops one's heart and breathing.
There is another form of lightning strikes and it is called "side splash" or "side flash" and it happens when lightning jumps from an object to a person, or even from one person to another.
This happens because lightning follows the path, which has the least resistance to electrical current, according to Washington Post.
How to stay safe?
If you are caught in a thunderstorm, it is best advised to take shelter. If shelter not available, get low on the ground.
If you have a car around, get inside. According to accuweather.com, meteorologist Evan Duffey, "The real reason cars are a safe option is the metal shell of your car disperses the lightning around you and to the ground. While you aren't completely safe, you are safer in your car compared to outside."
Moreover, stay away from water bodies, tents, and pavilions.