Public Knowledge, Perceptions and Practices in the High-Risk Lightning Zone of South Africa

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 13;18(14):7448. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18147448.


Lightning activity is a hazard for human societies and the environment, and a common feature of South Africa's climate system, although with great regional variation. The north-eastern section of the country, including the predominantly rural uMkhanyakude District Municipality, is among the most vulnerable regions, where a growing trend of lightning-related deaths and injuries has been observed in recent years. Despite this, and the Disaster Management Act (No. 57 of 2002), which mandates the implementation of hazard and risk assessments at all scales, no detailed research on the community risk perception of lightning incidents has yet been conducted, although such information could help to facilitate mitigation strategies. This explorative study involved a questionnaire survey of 150 community members that aimed to address this gap. Our results suggest that lightning is a real danger and the community had failed to effectively and successfully respond to its various socio-economic implications at the community and individual levels; this demonstrated the vulnerability of the community to the lightning activity in the study area. The contribution of this study is the identification and explanation of how lightning is regarded, understood, interpreted and responded to and how this information provides an opportunity for effective government intervention.

Keywords: community; lightning; risk perception; uMkhanyakude District Municipality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lightning*
  • Perception
  • Rural Population
  • South Africa
  • Surveys and Questionnaires