A thunderstorm rumbling across Melbourne, Australia is nothing new for the city, but an unusual storm claimed four lives on Monday. This was no normal weather occurrence and sparked sudden attacks of a rare condition called “thunderstorm asthma.” The CBC News reports how environmental conditions just prior to the wild storm were responsible for triggering medical chaos that transformed a local hospital into “a war zone”:
The wild thunderstorm in Melbourne on Monday night caused rain-sodden ryegrass pollen to explode and disperse over the city. The pollen caused asthma attacks in some patients who had never suffered from asthma before.
Ambulance Victoria responded to more than 1,870 cases, which was six-times the usual workload for a Monday evening, spokesman Mick Stephenson said.
It’s a baffling situation, as CBC News noted that some of the sufferers never had any attacks in the past. Melbourne is the “thunderstorm asthma capital of the world,” but even the most ardent experts said they have not experienced a circumstance of this level. Professor George Braitberg, who serves as the head of the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s emergency department, compared the scene he saw on Monday to a military-grade catastrophe: “I’ve been an emergency physician for about 35 years, worked in a number of hospitals, and I can say, hand on heart, that I have not seen this before.”
Some patients have been transferred to the hospital’s intensive care units, while the others are being closely monitored.