Lightning Fatalities in Colombia from 2000 to 2009

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Monday, 5 January 2015
Norberto Navarrete-Aldana, Simón Bolívar Hospital, Bogota, Colombia; and M. A. Cooper and R. L. Holle

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Abstract— National lightning fatality information has been gathered and published for several decades over Australia, Canada, Japan, the United States, and Western Europe, but few such studies have taken place and been published in the formal literature during the last decade in other areas. National lightning fatality data are difficult to collect in many countries, especially in tropical regions, despite a high frequency of lightning. To partially fill this gap, the current paper provides the first comprehensive national summary of lightning deaths in Colombia. Data from the National Administrative Department of Statistics were gathered for 2000 through 2009 and were classified according to the number of fatalities by year, month, gender, age, and location of the fatality. These data were assigned to geographic departments to determine the fatality rates per type of population. Comparison was also made with the population percentage in rural areas where the outdoor lightning risk may be greater than in cities due to labor intensive agricultural practices, housing that is unsafe from the lightning threat, lack of access to weather forecasts and lightning safety knowledge, and other factors. Data from an international lightning locating system also were used to determine the annual lightning frequency and monthly totals in Colombia. During the ten study years, 757 deaths were identified. The highest mortality rates were in rural areas with a maximum of 7.69 deaths per million per year in the Vaupes Department of eastern Colombia. The death rate for all of Colombia was 1.78 per million per year during the same period.

Keywords— Colombian lightning fatalities, lightning casualties, lightning accident prevention, lightning casualty epidemiology