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Why an Ethiopian community buried lightning survivors

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Twelve people in eastern Ethiopia who survived a lightning strike were buried up to their necks for around two hours in accordance with local customs.



The incident occurred on Sunday in Melka Bello, a town around 450km (280 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa.

“It was not heavy rain as such. The lightning struck a sheep at the door while we were inside a house. All of us fell down. Many of us were shaking,” survivor Nesro Abdi told the BBC.

Locals who heard screaming rushed to help.

“They brought milk and poured it on us. They dug up the ground and buried our bodies below our necks,” Mr Nesro said.

In Ethiopia’s central region of Oromia, it is widely believed that if someone survives a lightning strike, burying them in soil and giving them milk to drink or pouring milk on them will restore their health.

Lightning is seen as an act of God – when it occurs, people celebrate so as not to offend the Almighty.

Mr Nesro said: “As I couldn’t move my legs before, people had to carry me and put me in the soil. But when we got out of the soil, everyone is feeling better. I am moving well now.”

Haftu Birhane, an environmental physics researcher at Haramaya University, warns against these traditions as they are not scientifically proven.

“What science advises is to take [survivors] to the nearest health facilities,” he said.

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