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Environment Deaths by lightning and hail storms light up the alert in Pará

Pará is the third state where most people die from lightning strikes, according to Inpe. (Photo: Agência Pará)

Rômulo D’Castro – from Cenarium

PARÁ – Érlison Vieira, Ana Maria and Josélia Evangelista died together after being hit by an electric discharge. The lightning struck and killed the three residents of Oriximiná, in western Pará, while they were participating in a project to release chelonians in the Trombetas river. One child was injured, but survived. This was not the only case in the Pará municipality. In August, two cousins were playing soccer when a lightning struck the field. One died on the spot and the other was taken to hospital in a serious condition.

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Érlison Vieira, Ana Maria and Josélia Evangelista died on the spot when struck by lightning in Oriximiná. (Photo: Reproduction)

In Altamira and Uruará, in the southwest of the state, the victims were Cirlete da Silva Menezes and Deusdete Gil da Silva. The recent cases reflect studies by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe). According to a survey by the federal agency, Pará is the third unit of the federation in numbers of Deaths caused by this type of electrical discharge. Between 2000 and 2019, 162 Pará residents died by being hit by lightning. CENARIUM researched that this year, until the month of September, deaths were registered in Oriximiná, Óbidos, Uruará, Cametá and Altamira.

In addition to human deaths, the discharges killed more than 50 animals in at least three municipalities in Pará and set fire to crops and even residences, as happened in Monte Alegre, where a house was totally destroyed. The family had just left and nobody was hurt.

Casa fica destruída após ser atingida por raio na comunidade Munguba, em Monte  Alegre | Santarém e Região | G1
House destroyed by lightning in Monte Alegre, western Pará. Family had just left. (Photo: Reproduction)

Until the end of the year, Brazil should be hit by more than 78 million lightning strikes. The study presented by the Hydrometeorology Center of the Department of Environment of Pará points the State as the third with most occurrences. Altamira, in the Southwest, is the most affected city. The meteorologist from the Federal University of Western Pará (Ufopa), Alex Santos da Silva, attributes the records to the peculiarities of the climate in the region. “This set of components [climate changes] favors these clouds of large movements”, explains the professor from Ufopa.

Also according to the researcher, climate monitoring is important for the authorities to understand how the phenomenon may be undergoing changes. “We are living the La Niña period, so we have the meteorological conditions [for phenomena such as lightning]”.

Physicist Fábio Bertolo warns of the dangers that lightning can offer to human beings. “If you stay in an unsheltered place the cloud will use [the person] as a lightning rod. For example, in a soccer field, if they are playing ball, a cloud will run everybody”. The alert also applies to those who don’t pay attention to details inside their homes, such as “the use of cell phones during these storms, which can cause an electrical discharge to the device and cause the person to die.

In the universe of numbers, the probability of a person being affected by an electric discharge in Brazil is considered small: one in a million, but the incidence of deaths in the country is high. To each 50 deaths for lightnings in the world, one is registered in the Country, in accordance with the Center of Hydro-meteorology of the Department of Environment of Pará. The Pará State occupies the third position in the ranking of deaths of this type.

Granizo grande atinge Argentina e Uruguai - MetSul Meteorologia
Hailstorms occur by ‘thermal shock’ between very cold clouds and high temperatures. (Photo: Reproduction)

Besides lightning, Pará began to register frequently another phenomenon, this one infinitely less dangerous. About hailstorms, Ufopa professor Alex Santos da Silva explains. “Occurrence of hail is not common in our region, now the formation of specific hail clouds is common. He adds. “It is a phenomenon that depends on components acting together”.

What then would explain the most recent records in what is considered a small interval? In the last two months, it rained ice in the capital Belém and in inland municipalities such as Óbidos, Juruti, Medicilândia, and Altamira. Biologist Rodolfo Salm has a theory. “As we have the deepening of the climate crisis that causes atmospheric instability, in which the planet warms up, the energy in the atmosphere increases and this causes the humid layers to rise”.

The consequences of human action on the environment can be felt with each new heat wave or each new storm, like the one that hit part of the Xingu region in the southwest of Pará on Monday 18th. The winds that accompanied the rain reached 50 kilometers per hour.