Thunderstorms, Another Death Tool Claims Dozens of Lives in Yemen


Wed, 25-08-2021 06:44 PM, Aden

Ali Mahmood | South24 

As the highlands in South Yemen turned green following torrential rains last month , Mohammed Hassan, a 25 year-old young man set up a date alongside his friends to go on a road trip to visit a historical site located on the top of the highest mountainous clef in district of Juhaf in Al Dhalea governorate, 115KM northern of Aden, South Yemen. The group of fifteen got up early feeling overjoyed. They kept singing, taking photos along the rough road leading to the site which took more than four hours on foot.

Mohammed and his friends finally arrived at the historical site. They spent such a pleasant time exploring the historical temple of Ayyub mountain, which locals believe it was inhabited by the prophet Ayyub, one of the descendants of prophet Abraham and a nephew of prophet Jacob who was sent to reform the people lived in the desert located in northern Palestine in pre-Islam era, and at midday Mohammed and his friends had their lunch and took seats near the temple where they could enjoy the scenery and overlooking all the lowlands in the district. The sky started raining cats and dogs. Mohammed and his friends had no shelter to protect themselves except the ancient temple. They quitted taking photos and went indoors. Suddenly, a lightning storm struck them, putting an end to Mohmmed's life along with two of his friends and sent the rest of the young men to the hospital.

Mohammed Hassan, a father of two kids, and two of his friends died immediately amid the storm, meanwhile five  others were badly injured  the rest weren't in a better condition.

The last photo for the group sitting near the temple minutes before the tragedy (Photo by: one of the survivors)

"It was such a nightmare" Mohammed Saleh Ahmed, a survivor, told South24. "Our day turned into a hell. I saw a very bright light accompanied by a tremendous explosion stroke on the door of the temple," Mohammed recalls.

"I was conscious but I was feeling suffocated and I wasn't able to feel my lower limbs for a while," he added.

"I managed to get out of the temple and after a while I rushed back looking for my friends, I felt devastated seeing some of them bleeding and three of them taking the last breath" Mohammed recalls. 

"I tried to press on their chests (perform CPR for them) but they weren't responding, minutes later I went to the nearby village asking for help" Mohammed said, adding that residents of the village rushed to the place to help.

"The residents who came from the village tried to perform CPR for the three men again because they thought maybe they were unconscious but with no use. They had gone!" he explained.

Rescuers who came from the nearby village performed first aid for the injuries and photos for those who died were seen on WhatsApp calling the neighboring villages to help them evacuate the dead bodies along with the injured ones because the road in the village was very rough and no car can reach out.

After three hours, the injuries arrived in the hospital in Al Dhalea city where they were treated.

"We received five injuries, one of them was badly injured in his head because the storm destroyed parts of the roof of the temple over his head. He needed more than six stitches, while the other four were suffering burns and shocks" Dr. Mohammed Al Juhafi, acting manager of Al-Naser public hospital  in Al Dhalea city, told South24
The incident was shocking for the victims' families and for the whole area. 

"We were shocked seeing photos for the bodies of our loved ones widely spreading on WhatsApp and Facebook" Moath Al Haj a relative of two deceased told South24.

The bodies of the three young men who were killed by the lightning storm

"I couldn't believe it because they all just went on a picnic walking on their feet" Moath said. 

Mohammed Hassan and his friends weren't the only victims killed by lightning storms in Yemen this year. The death toll resulting from thunderstorms  witnessed a surge this year in both South Yemen and North Yemen as well. Earlier in July two people were killed in Ibb province in North Yemen by a lightning storm while a father was killed along with his son when a lightning storm hit them in their farm in Hajja province in North Yemen on August 2nd, 2021. 

Yemeni meteorologists attribute the surge in the death toll by lightning storms to the lack of awareness among people in the war-ravaged country.

"People don't take the forecasting briefings and the early warning we issue on daily basis about the weather conditions into consideration" Eng. Ali Batyseer director of the Weather Forecasting sector in the Yemen Civil Aviation and Meteorology authority to South24.

"The death toll resulting from the lightning storms surged because people don't take our instructions seriously, some use their cellphones of electronic gadgets connected to the internet while it rains which put them at risk because such devices attracts the storms," Eng. Batyseer said.

However, Chris Vagasky, a Lightning Safety Specialist with the National Lightning Safety Council in the US said that using cellphones or other cordless electronic devices during rains doesn't attract lightning.

"Using cell phones or other cordless electronic devices does not attract lightning to a person. But during a thunderstorm, you don't want to use electronic devices that are plugged into the wall or use anything connected to the plumbing. If lightning strikes nearby, the electricity can flow through the wiring or the plumbing and injure someone" Mr. Vagasky told South24.
When thunder roars go indoors 

Mr. Vagasky listed a number of advices for people to protect themselves from lightning storms.

"To stay safe from thunderstorms, you want to be inside a building that has electrical wiring or plumbing running through the walls, or inside a metal-topped vehicle" Mr. Vagasky said.

"If lightning strikes the building or the car, the electricity runs through that object and into the ground, instead of into the person. As soon as you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. So as soon as you hear thunder, get to one of those lightning safe places. In the United States, we say "when thunder roars, go indoors" Mr. Vagasky explained. 

Ali Mahmood Mohammed
A freelance journalist based in Aden who covers the war in Yemen through The National newspaper and other foreign media.
Photo: Al-Dhalea Mountains, South Yemen (local media)

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