Lightning fatalities in Australia, 1824-1991

Lucinda Coates*, Russell Blong, Frank Siciliano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Information on fatalities from lightning strikes has been extracted from a specially compiled database on natural hazards in Australia. Records dating from 1803-1991 indicate that at least 650 persons have been killed by lightning strikes. Maps and charts show the percentages of victims with respect to age, sex, locality, activity, and other circumstances of the strike. The majority of the 650 fatalities recorded have occurred along the more populous southeastern coast. The overall death rate, from 1910-1989, is 0.08 per 100 000 population. The annual number of lightning fatalities has decreased with time, from a death rate of 0.21 in 1910-1919 to 0.01 in 1980-1989. This trend is more pronounced when population figures are taken into account. The group that has been most at risk in Australia is that of males aged 15-19, followed by males aged 20-34. The male:female ratio of victims has decreased with time but is not approaching equality, being 11.6 in 1910-1919 and 5.3 in 1980-1989. The diurnal and monthly occurrences of lightning fatalities peak at 12.00-18.00 hours and November-February respectively. About 86% of fatalities have occurred outdoors and 14% have occurred indoors. Approximately three-fifths of fatalities have been work-related, and the group of workers that has traditionally been most at risk is that of land-workers. Approximately one-fifth of fatalities have been recreation-related, although this proportion has been increasing with time. The recreational activities of water sports, golf, and cricket have had the greatest number of lightning fatalities. Comparisons are made between these data and the results of other similar studies, both in Australia and overseas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-233
Number of pages17
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1993


  • Australia
  • database
  • Lightning fatalities
  • natural hazards
  • risk


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