Lightning has killed 19 people since the onset of the rainy season in October, officials said on Tuesday as heavy thunderstorms continue to pound parts of Zimbabwe, destroying infrastructure and causing flash flooding.
The Civil Protection Department (CPD) is warning people not to take shelter under trees and stay indoors.
“We acknowledge that this rainfall season started on a bad note. There’re 19 people who’ve already died after being struck by lightning,” CPD director Nathan Nkomo said.
Nkomo said the CPD had been called to Chivhu Prison, about 140km south of Harare, after rains caused massive damage on Monday and forced an evacuation of prisoners.
“We need something like ZWL$700,000 to have the prison repaired,” Nkomo said.
The CPD says it is on high alert for flooding and damage to bridges. The Air Force had been called to rescue 14 villagers cut off by floods, Nkomo added.
The lightning deaths include three children killed while walking from school in Goromonzi.
A young girl was killed by lightning in Bikita and a 37-year-old woman died near the Caravan Police Base in Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park suburb.
Twenty-eight-year-old Kwaziwayinkosi Nyoni of Silozwana Village in Matobo was killed by lightning in October while covering her fowl run with plastic paper in a bid to protect her chickens from rain.
On October 10, a 38-year-old man was holding a shovel while digging a trench in Cowdray Park during light showers when he was struck and killed by lightning.
A Grade 1 pupil from Nesigwe Primary School in Nkayi, Matabeleland North, was killed by lightning while walking home with three others who survived.
Police and education officials have urged schools to release children at the earliest threat of rain to avert more deaths.