A lightning strike hit a UK food waste recycling plant on Monday, sending a massive fireball into the night sky and cutting power nearby. Several residents in Oxfordshire, England, shared videos on social media showing the night sky suddenly lighting up and flames shooting into the air. Some even reported hearing a loud bang and a brief loss of power.
The company that operates the plant, Severn Trent Green Power, said in a statement that lightning had struck a digester tank at its Cassington AD (anaerobic digestion) facility near Yarnton, just north of Oxford. The fire that resulted was from the biogas inside that tank igniting. The facility converts food waste into renewable energy and clean natural gas.
One witness reportedly took video of the event, noting that the flames were visible for a “good few seconds.” Another remarked that they “could see a massive ball of fire.” The company confirmed that it was working with emergency services to secure the site and that no injuries had been caused.
According to reports, the strike ignited a massive fireball that lit up the night sky and left behind a cloud of smoke. It also reportedly caused the area to lose power temporarily, but it was restored shortly afterward.
Severn Trent Green Power said the strike “caused an explosion in our biogas tanks, resulting in a fire and significant structural damage.” The company added that it was investigating what happened.
While many residents believed the fireball was a meteor, a check of the positions of known space junk and other debris revealed that nothing artificial could have been responsible. According to the American Meteor Society, hundreds of meteors of fireball magnitude pass over the Earth daily, but most are masked by daylight and are often difficult to see.
The UK Meteor Observation Network asked people who saw the fireball to report it on its website. The group compiled the reports and created a possible trajectory of where the fireball could have passed by. Its likely trajectory suggests that it crossed the North Channel between Scotland and Northern Ireland and ended somewhere above Islay.
This event was a reminder of how much we can do with the resources we have at our disposal, but it also serves as a reminder that natural events, such as lightning strikes, are unpredictable. While no one was hurt in this case, the blast and subsequent fireball in the sky left a lasting impression on the local community. It’s a good thing that modern technology can record these moments for us to view later on, as these images will surely stand as a remarkable visual reminder of the power and beauty of nature.