South Africa: 9 schoolchildren struck by lightning in Johannesburg


Lightning breaks over the ground as play is abandoned for the day due to rain and bad light during day three of the First Test between South Africa and Australia played at the Wanderers on February 28, 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Hamish Blair

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Nine students ended up in the hospital in Johannesburg on Wednesday after being hit by lightning, according to local authorities.

South African news site News24 reported that three of the schoolchildren were in critical condition.

Among the victims were four girls, who were struck on Monday, and five boys who were struck on Tuesday. Four additional boys were struck on Tuesday, but have already been discharged.

All of the boys were members of King Edward VII School's cricket team, News24 said.

Two of the boys remain in critical condition.

According to the South African weather service, more than 260 people are killed by lightning in the country each year.

Forecaster Puseletso Mofokeng said 2,375 lightning related deaths were reported between 1999 and 2007, according to South African news site Times Live.

He said, "Lightning itself is very dangerous, all the time. There doesn't have to be a severe storm."

GlobalPost Senior Correspondent in Johannesburg Erin Conway-Smith said while the Democratic Republic of Congo is hit by lightning more than anywhere else in the world, South Africa is not far behind. She said strikes are so common, schools have set up warning systems.

"The South African Weather Service has started offering a lightning warning system to schools, with a siren remotely triggered and notifications sent by text message," Conway-Smith said.

"The private school down the street from our house has a storm warning system, and at this time of year we regularly hear the loud danger signal, which sounds uncannily like an air raid siren, sending the children scurrying indoors from the rugby fields."