Death due to lightning strikes in Andhra minimal, thanks to this mobile app
The number of deaths due to an unusual number of lightning strikes in coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh in the last week would have been very high but for the lightning tracker system installed in the Andhra Pradesh State Disaster Management Authority (APSDMA).
“The abnormal number of 41,025 cloud-to-earth lightning strikes on Tuesday would have caused a massive disaster had all of them hit human beings. But the toll was just 16, which is very low, considering the magnitude of the phenomenon,” said K Thanda Krishna, meteorologist with APSDMA.
On Tuesday, the APSDMA sent alerts on lightning strikes to as many as 20.14 lakh mobile phone subscribers, through a specially designed mobile application called Vajrapath. “At present, it is available only for BSNL customers. We are planning to extend them to all mobile service providers. We send alert messages through the application in English and Telugu about possible lightning disasters,” said Krishna.
The state-of-the-art lightning tracking application is considered to be the first of its kind in the country and was launched by chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu in July 2017. The application was developed by students of Kuppam Engineering College in Chittoor in collaboration with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which has roped in US-based Earth Networks to analyse electromagnetic waves and spot the exact location to be hit by lightning. Those who install the app on their mobiles can get alerts on the location of lightning at least 45 minutes in advance.
Once a lightning strike occurs, an email notification is received from Earth Networks System within five minutes, which initiates in-depth observation and close monitoring of the activity through a visualisation tool on screen. If the intensity of the activity is high, a team of operators immediately notifies authorities in the State Emergency Operation Centre.
“Alert messages are then sent through the Kaizala mobile application and also through direct telephone calls to tehsildars and concerned village revenue officers. Simultaneously, alert messages are sent through WhatsApp mobile application and social media to information and public relations department to alert the media,” the official said.