West Bengal heatwave: Mercury surpasses Jaisalmer; power cuts as grid struggles

Long power cuts have become a recurring phenomenon in Kolkata since Sunday night. CESC blames it on the use of electrical appliances beyond the sanctioned load

Getty Images
Getty Images

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

West Bengal has been reeling under severe heatwave conditions over the past week, as the mercury hovered over 40 degrees Celsius at several places.

Kolkata recorded a maximum temperature of 42.6 degrees Celsius at Salt Lake on Wednesday, surpassing the temperature of Jaisalmer, in the heart of the Thar desert in Rajasthan, which recorded a maximum temperature of 36 degrees.

Most districts in West Bengal on Thursday saw the thermometer rising above 43 degrees Celsius. Bankura was the hottest place in the state, with a maximum temperature of 44.1 degrees Celsius; Birbhum saw 43.4 degrees. 

Hospitals in the state capital are also observing a surge in patients suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion. "Patients are coming in with dehydration, vertigo, heat-related stress and exhaustion issues a lot more this month. We are advising everyone to stay indoors as much as possible," Dr. Riyanka Paul in the Critical Care Unit of Ruby General Hospital told the National Herald.

The Met Department has predicted no respite or rain till April 22–25, stating that the hot and humid weather is very likely to continue in several districts of West Bengal.

"A cyclonic circulation is likely to take shape over Jharkhand in the upcoming days. The increase in moisture incursion from the Bay of Bengal is likely to cause thunderstorms in East and West Midnapore, Jhargram and South 24 Parganas. Even if there is no rain, a slight dip in the temperature is likely in Kolkata in the upcoming days," the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Kolkata, told the National Herald.

"The temperature is likely to be this high till April 22; there is a chance of slight rain post that. If the rain is widespread, it will cause a significant dip in the temperature and some relief," they added.

Meanwhile, long power cuts have become a recurring phenomenon in Kolkata since Sunday night. Residents of the city have lodged several complaints with the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) and taken to social media to express their anguish. 

A power cut in South Kolkata’s Jadavpur area on Sunday night triggered a group of people into hurling stones at the nearest CESC office. Residents of Radha Gobindo Saha Lane and Dilkhusha Street entered the neighbouring Quest Mall to seek some respite, as the area saw power cuts from Sunday evening through Monday morning. This was unfortunately shared widely on social media with a communal spin, with claims that the people were slum dwellers and were demanding gifts and food on the occasion of Eid (which of course is several days away) from the mall management.

Debasish Banerjee, managing director of the CESC, said that the main reason behind these power outages was the excessive use of electrical appliances beyond the sanctioned load. "The peak demand soared to 2,366 MW on Monday, the highest this season," he said.

"The unprecedented rise in temperature has resulted in the increase of discomfort level, which has prompted many to use more ACs. This unprecedented use of appliances beyond the sanctioned load is causing power trips," Banerjee added.

The CESC also sent out an SMS notification to all Kolkata residents for judicious use of power: 'Our city is facing an unprecedented heat wave. We appeal to all Consumers for judicious use of electrical appliances, to restrict extreme overloading of electrical networks and help us serve better.'

"The heatwave in Kolkata is unprecedented," Ritwick Dutta, a resident of Salt Lake told the National Herald., "I have never lived through such hot temperatures in the month of April. In this torturous weather, we are also experiencing load shedding (power cuts) for over five hours for the past two days. After calling the CESC we found out, some houses here lost electricity because the fuse burnt up in the heat. Just today we have also received a notification saying Salt Lake is a degree hotter than the Thar desert today, with no sign of rain or wind anywhere."

Schools and colleges in West Bengal remain closed as per a government order. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said all schools and colleges in West Bengal will remain closed until April 22 in view of the severe heatwave conditions. 

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