Two people have been struck by lightning in Sydney within 10 minutes of each other in two separate incidents.
A woman, 71, was first struck in the chest by lightning outside her home in the suburb of Arcadia, at 5.14pm local time. She was treated at the scene by four New South Wales (NSW) Ambulance crews and bystanders, before being rushed to Westmead Hospital in a critical condition.
A male surfer, 29, was then hit as he left the water at Dee Why Beach at 5.24pm local time. He was given CPR by his friend and paramedics before being taken to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he remains in a serious condition, NSW Ambulance said. The friend was also taken hospital with pain in their jaw.
Inspector Carolyn Parish described the two incidents as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘terrifying’, adding that it was the first time she had come across two lightning strikes in 10 minutes.
‘[The ambulance crews] did absolutely everything they could. Both patients where firstly assisted by bystanders who commenced CPR prior to paramedics arriving. ‘This is outstanding and they’ve got to be proud of the effort they made to help out in a tense and distressing situation. ‘How you react to being hit by lightning depends on the circumstances and where you have been hit. NSW Ambulance Inspector Carolyn Parish said the incidents were ‘terrifying’.
The lightning strikes are being ‘driven’ by fire conditions. Both people received CPR at the scene. ‘Most people, however, will go into cardiac arrest so those first moments of CPR are vital.
‘We really need the public to take extra safety in these extraordinary fire conditions that are driving lightning strikes across the state.’
Over the weekend, experts warned that bushfires raging across NSW are generating so much heat they are creating storms in the area. Temperatures in Sydney soared to 45°C on Sunday, while Penrith, just west of the city, reached highs of 48.9°C – making it the hottest place on earth.
Smoke from bushfires can cause air to rapidly rise and collide with ice particles higher in the atmosphere, building electrical charges.
The rising air can also produce intense updrafts, which then generates strong winds which make the blazes spread quicker. NSW is one of Australia’s three states worst affected by bushfires, with 24 people believed to have died since the start of the season.