Students at a primary school in western Uganda were waiting for the rain to cease before they went home last week when lightning struck the building, killing 20 of them and injuring nearly 100 more. But this was not a rare freak accident, as 37 more students and two teachers were injured in a lightning strike at another school more than 300 km away on the same day. Indeed, more than 40 Ugandans have been struck dead by lightning in the last few weeks, while hundreds of others have been injured.
Meteorologists point to unseasonably heavy rainstorms that have battered the country, coupled with the fact that, according to state officials, few buildings follow construction legislation and have lightning conductors. “There has been negligence on the part of those who certify if buildings are fit for public use,” said state minister for disaster preparedness Musa Ecweru. The minister disputed claims that witchcraft was behind the spate of strikes, a popular hypothesis in some of Uganda’s rural communities.