Lightning strike kills lifeguard, injures 3 others

TAIPEI,Taiwan - Three lifeguard coaches were hit by lightning yesterday at Kaohsiung's Sizihwan beach, killing one.

Another, startled by the strike, fell over and was injured.

The city's fire department said the Kaohsiung Harbor Water Life-Saving Association was conducting rescue training yesterday morning. Police said the incident occurred while the four coaches, surnamed Chan, Yan, Chou and Lee, were standing on the beach, assessing whether the weather was suitable for trainees to swim in the ocean.

A fire department official said the coaches were sent to a hospital immediately after the incident, with Chan later pronounced dead.

According to the hospital, Chan's body had numerous scratches but showed no major external injury.

Kaohsiung police said Yan is still in a critical condition. Chou fractured his spine and Lee injured his left shoulder, police said, adding that both of them are in a stable condition.

Chen Li-na, director of the life-saving association, said the group decided to hold a routine lesson yesterday at Sizihwan Beach despite the pouring rain as the land warning for Typhoon Soulik had been lifted and the city government had ceased its suspension of school and work.

Chen said that in light of the tragedy, the association will possibly suspend classes before and after typhoons in the future.

National Sun Yat-sen University, which manages Sizihwan Beach, said the beach was closed to the public yesterday but that in such situations the university still allows the fire department or rescue teams to access the beach for rescue training purposes.

The Central Weather Bureau's (CWB) Kaohsiung Weather Station suggested that people avoid going to beaches or mountains over the next few days as even though Soulik has left the weather is still unstable and there is a high chance of rain and thunder in the area.

The CWB said it is best to avoid standing in open areas during storms or when there is a high chance of storms. People also should avoid standing near towers, electricity poles and isolated tall objects, as these have a higher probability of being struck by lightning. The bureau suggested that people stay dry and not swim or row a boat while it is raining.