Cay Soi paddy field in Huong Giang Commune, Huong Khe District, Ha Tinh Province has been continuously struck by lightning, with the reasons for the phenomenon remaining unknown to the authorities in this north-central Vietnamese province.
More than a dozen people and buffaloes have been struck by lightning, which also damaged many houses and electronic devices.
When there is thunder in the air, people immediately find their way home.
Local authorities affirmed that there were no grounds to conclude that a 35-kV electric transmission line passing through the rice field is attracting lightning.
Crops on fatal rice field
Over the past decade, local residents have lived in fear of lightning.
A Tien Phong (Youth) newspaper reporter went to the rice field to learn about the phenomenon first-hand.
It was a sultry afternoon. Lien flapped her hat to cool herself while looking at the dull sky.
Sweat dripped from her brow as she looked at dark clouds in the distance crackling with faint light and said worriedly that “lightning is coming!”
Two women quickly put bundles of grass into their carrying poles and ran back home at full speed.
Lien hurriedly hid a metal sickle by the path at the edge of the rice field and pulled her buffalo back home.
The skinny buffalo struggled to stay and eat to fill out its bony physique.
“You should go! Be careful with lightning! You should not stay here. It’s dangerous!” Lien urged everybody.
During harvest periods at Cay Soi rice field, farmers are only worried about lightning.
Lightning strikes kill buffaloes and damage television sets every year.
Surrounding neighborhoods are also affected. No family dares to use electronic devices when it is raining.
Whenever farmers see dark clouds, they fling their sickles away and run, leaving behind harvested rice.
Last year, Luong Dinh Khang in Hamlet 4, which is one kilometer from the rice field, saw light bulbs along a road leading to his commune fade out suddenly and emit black smoke.
Khang hurriedly ran into his house and saw that his new refrigerator was deformed at a corner and his TV faced the same fate.
“If electronics stores here do not offer a warranty, they will have no customers,” Khang said.
“All families have had their electronic devices damaged by lightning.”
Most lightning strikes are seen between the rice’s flowering and the harvest season.
Khang and many other families have abandoned their rice to seek shelter from the lightning many times.
When it is sunny again, many families face losses. Dead cattle, fallen trees, and burned electric wires are all common.
Broken electronic devices pile up at repair stores in the center of the commune.
The tops of some electric poles turned black after being struck by lightning.
Local residents do not dare to build tall houses.
They use high-quality electric wires and install knife switches near entrances to quickly disconnect them in case of lightning.
No one knows exactly why the area attracts so much lightning.
Some people blamed the phenomenon on a 35-kV electric transmission line, while others said the commune is home to an iron mine.
Regardless of the reason, Huong Giang residents have not felt safe over the past decade.
|Residents in Huong Giang Commune, Huong Khe District, Ha Tinh Province run home before there is a lightning strike. Photo: Vu Tuan / Tien Phong
It was raining slightly, Vo Thi Lanh entered her kitchen to be with other family members.
The kitchen was lower than the main space of the house and warmer, so it spared them from the fear of lightning.
Some seven years ago, it was sultry and rained slightly as well.
Lanh was hit by lightning because she was holding an umbrella when she was driving buffaloes back home with three other people.
The lightning strike threw them in all directions. Lanh was at the center of the strike so she fell into an irrigation canal.
Her umbrella was torn to shreds and gave off smoke.
Dau Vien was walking behind the other three.
“After the lightning, I felt dizzy. After a while, I could regain my composure,” Vien recounted. “Lanh was in the irrigation canal and her clothes were shredded.”
“Still breathing!” other farmers said.
They took mud from a nearby rice field to cover the body of Lanh.
“That is our forefathers’ experience. When she regained consciousness, we took her to hospital,” recalled Tran Dinh Dung, Lanh’s uncle.
After such terrible lightning, Lanh had to stay at the hospital for two weeks.
Now when it rains heavily, Lanh’s family gathers in the kitchen.
Loud sounds startle her and make her hair stand on end.
Dung also shudders when wind sweeps through the trees behind his house.
A buffalo was struck dead by lightning last year and a woman in the adjacent hamlet was also killed by a lightning strike in the year before last, Dung said.
“We do not know why the God of thunder grows angry with local residents,” Dung sighed.
He mentioned the family of Nhan in Hamlet 3.
Nhan is disabled so he has to use a wheelchair to travel. He lives on welfare with his first-born son.
Some years ago, Hoi, his wife, and their two sons were harvesting peanuts when there was a storm brewing.
The three immediately threw their sickles and pickaxes, and ran as fast as they could.
Hoi led her 10-year-old son and they were followed by her first-born son.
They were suddenly hit by a lightning strike. Local residents covered their bodies with mud and gave them artificial respiration but could save the older brother only.
There has been no conclusion about the reasons why Huong Giang Commune has faced so many lightning strikes.
Commune leaders said lightning strikes had killed five people and injured five others over the past ten years.
Losses in cattle and electronic devices have been huge.
Convincing reasons expected
“If lightning is converted into electricity, local residents will have enough power for use for the whole year,” Dung said.
“We expect local authorities to study and find out the reasons so that we can take precautions against lightning and set our mind at rest.
“How to work for a living while being on tenterhooks?”
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