India - Ball Lightning Blamed For
Claw Marks On Villagers' Faces

By Sharat Pradhan
Indo-Asian News Service

LUCKNOW (IANS) - Balls of lightning and not any mysterious flying object left claw marks on the faces of villagers in Uttar Pradesh during the past month, a scientist has said after studying the phenomenon.
Such balls of lightning, as distinct from the bolts of lightning that strike during the monsoons, often fall to earth during prolonged dry spells, professor Ravindra Arora of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, said. The balls are as bright as a 100-watt bulb.
Large parts of Uttar Pradesh are currently facing a drought.
"Dry spells increase soil resistance while decreasing its conductivity and attract lightning balls that emit different colours, mostly blue, green, yellow or red," Arora, a specialist in high voltage electricity, told IANS.
"I have sufficient reason to believe that the burn injuries on the faces of victims were caused by these lighting balls, which range in size from a tennis ball to a football."
They cause burn injuries if they come into contact with human skin but otherwise fall harmlessly to the ground, he contended.
Arora came to the conclusion after viewing an image of the object that had been copied on to a CD and sent to him for examination.
The phenomenon had created panic in many parts of Uttar Pradesh as scores of people reported they were attacked by a strange and brightly lit flying object that left scratch marks on their faces.
For lack of a better word to describe it, the unidentified flying object was referred to as 'muhnochwa', or something that claws the face.
Reports of encounters at night with the 'muhnochwa' first came in from rural areas, but incidents had occurred in towns and cities too, including the state capital Lucknow.
Initially the authorities dismissed the reports as products of wild imagination. Later, they were worried enough to double power supply to the worst hit districts so villagers wouldn't spend long hours in the dark.
"The injury marks on the faces of victims were nothing but burns caused by these lighting balls," Arora held.
According to him, "the phenomena of lightning balls is older than life on earth. There is evidence of these balls over the ages. Reports about these have been received from different parts of Europe and the U.S. The highest frequency has been reported from New Zealand.
"In all cases, people can see a ball-like object travelling sideways in the air and emitting red, blue, yellow or green lights."
Arora attributed much of the panic to superstition and the belief in myths that is prevalent among the vast rural population in Uttar Pradesh. At the same time, he was confident that the phenomenon would disappear once the monsoon set in.
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