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Are Uganda's deadly lightning strikes becoming more common?

Lightning struck a primary school in Uganda killing 20 pupils and injuring almost 100 more on Tuesday, officials say. It's the latest in a spate of lightning strikes that have killed more than 40 nationwide.

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Schoolchildren who survived after lightning struck their classroom received treatment at a local hospital Tuesday. Uganda has one of the highest rates of lightning strike deaths in the world and its capital Kampala has more days of lightning per year than any other city, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Edward Echwalu/Reuters

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It was time to go home, when the rain came.

After another day of lessons, the children at Runyanya primary school in rural western Uganda could only huddle together for shelter in their classroom and watch and wait as the tropical downpour turned the red earth outside into rivers of mud.

That was when the lightning struck the school, Ugandan officials say, killing 20 of the pupils and injuring almost 100 more.

It would be easy to dismiss Tuesday’s disaster as a sad, yet extremely rare occurrence. But these days in Uganda it is not rare.

The deaths at the provincial primary school were just the latest in a spate of casualties caused by lightning strikes over the past few weeks that Uganda’s state-run daily New Vision says has claimed more than 40 lives nationwide.

Even ahead of the disaster at Runyanya primary school the wave of lightning strikes had caused so much concern that Ugandan lawmakers demanded that the government provide an official explanation for what was going on.

“I don’t know which minister is in charge of the lightning, but let the government come with a statement to inform the country on what is going on and how we can manage it,” Rebecca Kadaga, Uganda’s speaker of parliament, told legislators on Monday.

Unusual uptick in moist air

Technically, Uganda’s chief meteorologist says, unseasonably heavy rainfall in recent weeks is due to an abnormal uptick in the amount of moist air blowing in across the Congo basin from the Atlantic.

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