The Ndata School of Climate Change and Earth Sciences at the Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) is scheduled to hold an international conference from October 29 to 31 this year as part of its research in lightning and electromagnetism.
Executive Dean for the school, associate professor Leonard Kalindekafe described lightning as an issue of concern that needs attention considering the number of people being killed and property damaged over the past years.
He said recent findings indicate that Malawi is ranked number five among countries where lightning has killed a lot of people.
“We have collected enough data and we would like to disseminate the findings, get international experts to talk to Malawians about issues to do with lightning. A lot of lives have been lost and property damaged and this should concern us all. We will not bring in our own views, we want to hear from the people, we want to get the people together and listen to their beliefs.
“Our role is to link those beliefs with science and see if they are interpretations. We have contacted various people including district commissioners, witchdoctors, those that have been directly or indirectly affected by lightning and all other interested parties… If we could get to someone who could challenge us and create the lightning, then that could be interesting,” he said.
Malawi continues to experience a spate of lightening which has killed a number of people mostly during rainy season.
In a latest development, a 24-year-old man in Chikwawa died on Sunday evening after being struck by lightning.
According to spokesperson for Chikwawa Police Station, Foster Benjamin, the deceased, MacFarlane Kaludzu, met his fate while going to his father’s workplace at Mafale Community Dispensary within Senior Chief Ngabu’s area which was experiencing rain drizzles at that time.
“He had been lying dead throughout the night until Monday morning when he was discovered by a maize-mill watchman who reported the issue to village authorities. Police and medical personnel visited the scene and found out that the deceased’s skin was darker than usual and the clothes were burnt,” said Benjamin.
Postmortem results at Chikwawa District Hospital showed that Kaludzu died of breathing difficulties and loss of blood through nose bleeding. Police have since ruled out foul play.
The deceased came from Sanjama Village in the area of Senior Chief Ngabu in the District.
Death by lightning is believed to be a product of witchcraft not nature in most of the country’s rural communities.
In 2016, Esme Muluzi-Malisita first born daughter to former president Bakili Muluzi and her friend Hazel Busile died after being struck by lightning at a farm in Mpemba, Blantyre.
In the same year, death of a 17 year-old by lightning at Chimbalanga Village in Neno led to the cruel murder of four elderly person believed to have had a hand in the death of the 17-year-old.
However, weather experts at the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, say lightning is the occurrence of a natural electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud, accompanied by a bright flash and usually thunder.
Lightening is destructive and kills due to the increase in electrical charge targeting a human or a tree, or anything with a height as a conductor. This is so because of their higher potential for electrons.
Unfortunately, this explanation, though backed by scientific evidence, cannot be trusted by most people in Malawi. There is strong belief-especially in the rural areas where 85 percent of the population lives-that witchcraft is responsible for all deaths by lightning.
The theme for the conference is expected to be ‘lightning and electromagnetism research for sustainable development.’