It is not just the virus that kills during the pandemic. The lockdown-induced restlessness, which has provoked people to attempt things they had no time for earlier, has also turned out to be fatal.
Electrocution of a peculiar variety has seen a surge in Kerala during the ongoing COVID-19 phase.
This has prompted KSEB's chief safety commissioner Sasankan Nair C S to sent a message to all electrical circles to urgently issue a public warning on Friday. "Never use iron or aluminium rods/pipes to pull down jackfruit, coconut or mangoes from trees near an electrical line. This year alone, 46 people had died attempting this," a brief release put out by electrical circles across Kerala on Friday said.
"Never before has so many deaths happened in Kerala in so short a time because of this," Sasankan Nair told Onmanorma. The safety commissioner said that long hours spent idly in homes during the lockdown period could have led people to attempt such things.
"In suburban areas in Kerala, there are not many houses without a fruit-bearing tree like the jackfruit and mango tree, and the coconut tree is almost everywhere. With traditional fruit pluckers confined in their homes fearing COVID, the adult members of the family themselves stepped out to do the job. They might have also seen it as an adventure, something novel to do when they could do nothing else" a lineman attached to the Electrical Circle in Thiruvananthapuram said.
"Years ago, we tied up a knife or a sickle at the tip of a long thin wooden rod to pull down mangoes or jackfruit. But nowadays, iron and aluminium rods five to six metres long are preferred as they are easily available," the lineman said.
Unwanted aluminium pipes and beams have become common in Kerala households with the increasing popularity of aluminium truss roofing, done for protection from both rain and shine. Aluminium is a greater conductor of electricity than even iron.
Iron rods, too, are not an uncommon presence in Kerala homes. "Over 50 percent homes that had a Doordarshan-era antenna still retain the iron rods that had once propped up these old antennas," the chief safety commissioner said.
Most of these deaths happened when the person using the metal rod to poke at a fruits hanging high lost balance and allowed the rod to fall over a charged overhead line. "The death is instant," the commissioner said.
Ingenuity could also prove fatal. It was found that some who had met their doom had used such iron rods to poke or push down fruits, seemingly cleverly, from the terraces of their houses but ended up losing balance and the rod falling over the electricity line that passed nearby.
A week ago an elderly woman was electrocuted when she used an iron rod to pull down some 'bilimbi' fruits. The rod was too heavy for her and, before she could lift it up, it inclined toward an electricity line that went along the side of the tree, killing her on the spot.