Ground crew hurt after lightning strikes NAIA Terminal 1

Robie de Guzman

A ground crew member at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was reportedly injured after a lightning struck near the ladder where he was standing on at Terminal 1 on Tuesday night.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal identified the injured ground handler as Joel Arejola, 30, a worker of Macro Asia Company.

Monreal said that based on the incident report, Arejola was assisting an aircraft set to depart for Vancouver, Canada when the lightning struck around 7 p.m. that threw him off the ladder.

“While the ground staff/handling was removing the cable of the ground power unit… noong tinatanggal, nagkaroon ng insidente at tumilapon,” he said.

Arejola sustained abrasions on the leg.

He was quickly assisted by the MIAA medical team before he was brought to a hospital.

Monreal said the incident stresses the importance of suspending ramp operations at NAIA when a red lightning alert is issued.

“That is basically the reason why we are implementing this warning, the red lightning alert, to ensure that the passengers, the workers specifically, are safe because they are pre-warned or forewarned because of these incidents that are coming,” he said.

A red alert warning is issued by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) when lightning strikes are prevalent in the area and may endanger personnel, passenger and flight operations.

A prolonged lightning red alert may cause delays in flight operations, according to Esperanza Cayanan, chief of Pagasa Weather Division.

“Kung mayroong lightning within 9 kilometers doon sa aerodrome, nag-iissue tayo ng red alert para this will lead to suspension yung ground operation sa Airport,” she explained.

Based on NAIA’s security protocol, ramp movement in the airport are temporarily suspended when a red lightning alert is issued.

Airport personnel and passengers are also advised to leave the ramp for safety reasons.

The MIAA, meanwhile, assured that the NAIA is safe from lightning strikes as it is equipped with 20 lightning arresters to protect electrical and telecommunication facilities from the damaging effect of lightning.

A lightning arrester is a device that captures a lightning surge and diverts it into the ground, which absorbs it. (with details from Joan Nano)

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