Local news outlets in Kenya reported that two soccer players were fatally struck by lightning during a football match over the weekend, according to BBC. The fatal incident is said to have occurred at a school park in Kisii county. Besides the deaths, two other players who sustained injuries during the soccer competition were rushed to the hospital for medical attention. An official with the East African nation’s football federation reportedly said the rains started as the friendly tournament was ongoing.
“It is quite unfortunate that they lost their lives while playing a game that they loved most. As federation officials, we send our condolences to the affected families,” Football Kenya Federation chairman Evans Akang’a was quoted as saying, per the Daily Nation.
Akang’a also advised relevant officials to fix lightning arresters in public locations where such matches are held as an effort to mitigate such tragedies. In the wake of the recent tragedy, Daily Nation also reported that educational institutions in Kisii County have started fixing lightning arresters. This reportedly comes in the wake of the region seeing moderate rainfall, a weather pattern that usually comes with thunderstorms and lightning. There have since been appeals for lightning arresters to be fixed in educational institutions as well as homes.
“If you look at the institutions around us, there are no arresters on top of the buildings. Here in the Manyansi area, lightning is fond of striking. It has been striking trees and the other day, it took the lives of young people. We now fear for the safety of our children going forward,” Mr. Laban Nyakundi, an uncle of one of the deceased players, said.
However, people being fatally struck by lightning in Kisii County is nothing new. In the 1990s, 15 students died under the same circumstances. A meteorologist who spoke to Daily Nation explained that such incidents occur in the county because of its proximity to the Equator and Lake Victoria. He added that the clouds in such areas are cumulonimbus, which are said to be “responsible for stormy weather” and can cause “rainy and windy conditions, creating hail, thunder, and lightning.”
“Kisii is wedged on an escarpment between the moist warm winds of Lake Victoria on the West, and the cool high altitude winds that prevail every year-round from the East. Many people live on hills and the population is growing. This has made people build houses densely with tin roofs being popular,” Mr. Henry Sese, the meteorologist, said.
Though there’s no Kenyan law that requires people to install lightning arresters after constructing a home, Mr. Sese urged his compatriots to explore fixing them for safety reasons.
“Not just anyone can put up lightning rods. He or she must be someone knowledgeable because they will be required to design it in such a way that when lightning strikes, it redirects its energy to the earth where it is absorbed,” he explained.