THE MINISTRY of Emergency Management (MINEMA) has allocated about Rwf700 million toward protecting Rutsiro from lightning calamities that have been causing loss of people’s lives and livestock, injuries as well as property damage. The move follows a request by members of Parliament to fast-track the procurement and installation of lightning rods or lightning conductors to avert the lightning induced deaths and other damages. According to Phillipe Habinshuti, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry in charge of emergency management, the lightning rods were installed in Rutsiro district, which has been the most affected by lightning calamity. “Two out of three people that are killed by lightning across the country are from Rutsiro district. Lightning is a serious issue in Rwanda. During heavy rains we used to lose two people per day,” he said. So far, according to the ministry, 161 lightning protection systems have been installed on 129 critical sites or facilities hosting many people. The lightning hotspots that will be protected include; 110 education facilities, 10 administrative offices, six health care facilities, two training centres, and one IDP Model Village. Habinshuti said that Rutsiro District is now responsible for regular maintenance of the installed lightning protection equipment. The materials for maintenance given to the districts include five lightning rod testers to test the status of the lightning rod air terminal and five earth resistance meters to measure the resistance/resistivity of the soil He added that the district should establish mechanisms for ownership and responsibility of the leaders of the facilities and sites where lightning protection systems have been installed to ensure that the security of the installed equipment is guaranteed. The district has also been tasked to enforce measures of lightning protection and urge all owners of buildings, mainly leaders of worship buildings to install lightning arrestors on their buildings. Etienne Havugimana, the Vice Mayor in charge of Economic Development in Rutsiro district told The New Times more sites and centres are still in need of lightning conductors to protect a large number of people. “We are urging people and owners of different buildings to take initiative and invest in lightning protection systems. After some protection systems were installed in some schools, the casualties caused by lightning have decreased. However, we still need to protect more areas because recently two children were also killed by lightning,” he said, adding that rainfall has increased in the past two weeks. Status of lightning incidences According to figures from the ministry in charge of emergency management, from January to September 2022, at least 45 people and over 70 livestock were killed by lightning. According to the report, 178 people were injured by lightning. Lightning disasters also damaged nine houses. In general, at least 1,033 incidents of disasters were recorded in a period of nine months. These include 144 lightning incidences, 237 incidences of fire, 62 incidences of floods, 14 incidences of hailstorms, 74 landslides, 54 mine disasters, 295 rainstorms and 151 windstorms. Rulindo district is also among districts that are most vulnerable to lightning calamity. Lightning struck 11 students from GS Ngarama in Rulindo district in one day alone in March 2022. In one day alone in February this year, lightning also struck 30 students from GS Gihinga in Kinzuzi sector in the same district, damaged four classrooms, the school administration block, and damaged an electrical transmission line. Judith Mukanyirigira, the Mayor of Rulindo district said they were looking at how to install lightning rods in schools. Rwanda recorded 198 lightning cases in 2020. The country is prone to several natural hazards including thunderstorms and lightning. Researchers say that lightning has become one of the most alarming hazards to affect Rwanda in recent years. Jean Baptiste Nsengiyumva, a researcher on disasters and natural hazard risks, told The New Times that different districts are prone to lightning at different levels due to different reasons. Some of the vulnerable districts include Rulindo, Karongi, and Rutsiro districts. “One of the factors that may cause lightning include the number of clouds in the area. It can also be caused by geographical features in the area or how people are behaving during thunderstorms. Such behaviours can facilitate lightning strikes,” he said. He said that, according to research, Western Province is more prone to lightning than its neighbour DRC. “This is because, in DRC, there is a high magnetic field making the area a very high-risk zone to lightning. Every year the areas record a high number of lightning strikes. This is why districts such as Karongi, Nyamasheke, Rutsiro are in a high-risk zone to such disasters,” he explained. Explaining why Rulindo District in Northern Province is among the districts prone to lightning, he said that high mountains which attract a lot of rain is another factor. “It requires deep research that shows more real reasons that make districts prone to lightning strikes,” he said.