A freak lightning in Kiryandongo, Uganda, killed 18 children and one teacher at a primary school, triggering concerns about the death tolls caused by lightning strikes in the African country.
A lightning struck Runyanya primary school in Kiryandongo on June 26, killing 18 children and a teacher instantly. A child who received severe burn injuries died later on Wednesday.
Lightning strikes are common in Uganda but Charles Basalirwa, head of the meteorological unit at Kampala's Makerere University, said the strikes have increased dramatically in recent weeks. Last week, nearly 28 people were killed by lightning and scores more were injured.
In Uganda we have had these events and these strikes before but never as severely as we have seen over the past few weeks, Basalirwa said.
The meteorologist said the increase in frequency and severity of the lightning strikes could be because of the extreme weather conditions in the region, which have also triggered droughts and flooding. Deforestation could also be a reason behind the extreme climate change.
Police authorities said those who died had taken shelter in the school from the rain and were waiting to go home.
Rights groups and opposition lawmakers say the government has neglected in installing lightning rods in buildings.
Uganda's Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Musa Ecweru the building construction engineers were negligent in certifying the buildings as safe.
Ecweru said the government is investigating the matter and will work with the relevant sectors to make sure that this (problem) is addressed.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, Uganda has one of the highest rates of lightning strike deaths in the world and its capital Kampala has more days of lightning per year than any other city.