Photo of lightning striking HDB block in Queenstown: How does it happen and are residents at danger?

SINGAPORE: An electrifying photograph of lightning seemingly striking the aspect of an HDB block in Strathmore Avenue surfaced over the weekend, shortly going viral on social media.

It sparked questions on how a lightning bolt may hit at an angle at the higher half of a constructing, with some folks expressing concern concerning the security of the occupants and the block in the Queenstown space.

The photographer who captured the shot, Mak Wei Seng, instructed CNA that it was taken at 2.55pm on Saturday (Apr 23) from The Metropolitan Condominium at Alexandra View.

It was a stormy afternoon and amid the lightning strikes, Mr Mak readied his digital camera by his window.

“When I heard the first thunder, I quickly set up my camera and was lucky to get the shot,” he stated.

Mr Mak, who has been taking pictures of lightning for a few yr, stated he captured the shot inside 10 to fifteen minutes from the time he arrange his digital camera.

“A lot is about luck for lightning shots – basically your camera needs to point in the right direction; the rest is about having the right camera settings,” he added.

“(I) was lucky … Sometimes it could be hours and you get nothing. Sometimes your camera points west, but the actions happen in the south-west.”


According to lightning safety knowledgeable Professor Lock Kai Sang, Singapore has one of the very best lightning charges in the world. 

“Lightning strikes at corners and edges of flat roofs and parapet walls of tall buildings are common even where LPS (lightning protection systems) are provided,” he instructed CNA in response to queries.

Analysing the {photograph} taken by Mr Mak – who recognized the block as 53 Strathmore Avenue – Prof Lock stated that the lightning appeared to have struck round degree 34 of the 43-storey constructing.

“HDB design document shows that (for the) 1st to 2nd storey, (the) typical height is 3.6m, and subsequent floor-to-floor height (is) 2.8m. The lightning strike point was estimated to be at a height of around 96m from the ground,” stated Prof Lock, who’s from the Singapore Institute of Technology’s engineering cluster.

“Since the ‘middle’ of the building is taller than 45m, it is not unexpected that the upper part of the building walls could be struck by lightning,” he added.

Prof Lock defined that engineers use what known as a “rolling sphere method” to find out a construction’s lightning vulnerability.

In this methodology, a sphere of specified radius is imagined to be rolled throughout the bottom in the direction of the constructing, up the aspect, excessive of the constructing and down the opposite aspect to floor.

Those components of the constructing touched by the sphere are at danger of being struck. Portions that are not touched are shielded or protected.

In the case of the {photograph}, the rolling sphere methodology exhibits that the higher half of the constructing may very well be struck by lightning from the aspect, he stated.

He added too that the comparatively uncovered circumstances of the Strathmore block may have been an element, as lightning propagation wouldn’t be intercepted by different taller buildings round.

“For tall buildings, the rooftop and the side walls can be struck by lightning. Lightning protection must be installed on the roof and the top sides of the building,” he stated.

Emeritus Professor Liew Ah Choy, a lightning safety knowledgeable from the National University of Singapore’s division of electrical and laptop engineering, added that not all lightning chief strategy angles are vertical.

“Some descend from the cloud at an angle and can lead to strikes which bypass the roof lightning protection intercepting systems. This occurs predominantly with tall structures,” he stated.

Prof Lock added that lightning flashes are a random phenomenon.

“Some lightning flashes may zigzag towards the ground in a somewhat horizontal manner through the air, and in such cases, it is possible to hit the side of a tall building,” he stated. “In this case, the lightning current will terminate on the building structural steelwork and be discharged to the ground.”

In phrases of potential hazard to the constructing, Emeritus Prof Liew stated that in a constructing that’s correctly supplied with a lightning safety system, harm to the constructing could be decreased to a suitable degree in accordance with the Class of Protection to which it is designed to.

“Together with (the) following of advisory precautions given, danger to occupants can be managed to acceptable levels,” he added.

Damage to the facade of a constructing can, nevertheless, happen in the absence of or failure of the exterior lightning safety or lightning intercepting conductors. 

As for the chance to residents, Prof Lock stated there isn’t a hazard to residents who keep indoors throughout the lightning strike.

“Lightning flashes are not able to penetrate through the windows or the wall into the living space. They will be blocked by the concrete rebars bonded to the window frames,” he defined.

Tanjong Pagar Town Council and HDB stated in response to queries that they haven’t acquired any suggestions a few lightning strike to the constructing.

“We have checked and there is no issue with the lightning protection system,” stated Tanjong Pagar Town Council.

Photo of lightning striking HDB block in Queenstown: How does it happen and are residents at risk?

Alison Jenner

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