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A BOLT of lightning hit three homesteads in a village in the Transkei and killed four people from one family, including two elderly women and two children, on Tuesday evening.
According to OR Tambo District Municipality disaster management, Tuesday’s incident has brought the number of deaths caused by lightning to 14 in Ntabankulu since late October.
“The first incident happened on October 27, when six people were killed. Four more people were killed on November 7,” said senior disaster manager Vusumuzi Mgobhozi.
For most landmasses, lightning strikes most often during the summer. That, of course, limits the strikes. Not so in equatorial Africa — where summer is year round, and lightning is a way of life.
The spot with the most lightning lies deep in the mountains of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo near the small village of Kifuka (elevation 3200 feet, 970 m).
In a year, 158 bolts occur over each square kilometer (10 city-blocks square).
The black dot (in the middle of the largest white area in Central Africa) marks the spot — near the tiny town of Kifuka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — where the greatest lightning activity in the world occurs.
The color code at the top of the image shows the number of flashes per square kilometer during the year. Note that over the oceans and desert "white" means no lightning. [Courtesy of NASA’s Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) Instrument Team and the Global Hydrology Resource Center (GHRC).
The greatest flash density averages only 36 discharges per square kilometer per year (South Africa) — only 23% of Kifuka’s rate, says Goodman. This rate occurs at Costmore, located about 85 miles (135 km) west of Durban, in southeastern South Africa.
Positive lightning is a type of lightning strike that comes from apparently clear or only slightly cloudy skies; they are also known as "bolts from the blue" because of this trait. Unlike the more common negative lightning, the positive charge is carried by the top of the clouds (generally anvil clouds) rather than the ground. The leader forms in the sky travelling horizontally for several miles before veering to down to meet the negatively charged streamer rising from below. Positive lightning makes up less than 5% of all lightning strikes. Because of the much greater distance they must travel before discharging, positive lightning strikes typically carry six to ten times the charge and voltage difference of a negative bolt and last around ten times longer.