The occurrence of lightning in time and space around the world is well known. Lightning fatalities and injuries are well delineated in the United States; however, there is much less information about lightning impacts on people in the developing world. It is estimated that between 6000 and 24,000 people are killed globally per year, and 10 times as many are injured. The fatality rate per capita has become very low in the developed countries during the past century due to the availability of lightning-safe structures and vehicles, less labor-intensive agriculture, and other factors, but this reduction has not occurred where people continue to work and live in lightning-unsafe situations. Lightning safety advice often mistakenly expects that the direct strike is most common, but ground current, direct contact, side flash, and upward streamers are much more frequent mechanisms. In developed countries, the injury:death ratio is approximately 10:1, meaning that 90% survive but may have permanent disabling injuries. The proximate cause of death is cardiac arrest and anoxic brain injury at the time of the lightning strike, and, at this time, the damage from a lightning strike cannot be reversed or decreased in survivors. Lightning vulnerability in many developing countries continues to be a major issue due to widespread exposure during labor-intensive agriculture during the day when thunderstorms are the most frequent and while occupying lightning-unsafe dwellings at night.
Part of the book: Atmospheric Hazards