Around 11am on July 5th, lightning flashed over the sky. After hearing a booming thunder, a stream of blue smoke rose from Ms. Chen’s pigsty, which was located in a lychee garden in Guangming Xinqulou Village , Shenzhen.
The pigs screamed like they were being slaughtered, and Ms. Chen, who was just three meters away from the pigsty, had never dreamed that the 53 ready-for-sale pigs would die in a second. “The pigs that were lying on the ground could not move any more. They were all struck dead by the lightning. They were sleeping close to each other after lunch, and so they died together.”
The neighbors said that the ears, nostrils, and mouths of most pigs were still bleeding, and their bodies had traces of burns, even with a slight burned smell. The only pig alive had a broken rear leg, and struggled to stand up, but couldn’t.
The neighbors saw that the center of the roof was burned out, with smoke rising from it. And a 4-meter long crack had appeared on it. They said it was through that crack that the lightning struck the pigs. A farm worker said, “The pigs we raise never get sick and even when they do, they would not like die like this. They must have been struck dead by the lightning.”
Ms. Chen, who was still scared, said that the pigsty was built with asbestos tiles, and it was open in all directions. She raised over 200 pigs in the pigsty, which had two big lots (one in the south and the other in the north), and each big lot was divided into 4 small lots. Pigs in the small lots in the west and east were not hurt, while pigs near the crack were all dead.”
Ms. Chen said the biggest pigs weighed over 150KGs while the smallest weighed around 100KGs, and her loss amounted to nearly RMB130000.
At round 7pm on July 6th, the local government sent the dead pigs to Qingshui River to be destroyed, in order to prevent them from entering the food market.
Mr. Cao, a middle school physics teacher in Hangzhou, posited that distance was the key reason that the people, who were standing just three meters away from the pigsty, remained unharmed.
The first consideration was the height of the pigsty. “There were neither higher buildings nor a lightning conductor near the pigsty. The inverted “v” shaped roof of the pigsty accumulated huge amounts of static electricity, while the charge struck through the air. The pigsty was at a high place more vulnerable to lightning.”
The second factor was the distance between the humans and the pigsty. After the pigsty was struck by lightning, it didn’t matter how many pigs there were, and how much they weighed, or that they were sleeping close to each other, because the pigsty itself became a conductor surrounding them. It was possible for people standing only three meters away from the pigsty to remain unharmed.
Mr. Cao said the simplest way to prevent further lightning strikes at such high places, was to install a lightning rod.