|Girls ride bicycles with umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun in Bolpur on Friday. Picture by Indrajit Roy|
TT, March 31: The India Meteorological Department has said a heave wave-like condition is prevailing in the western districts of Bengal, where the mercury has already breached the 40-degree Celsius mark.
Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia, Burdwan and West Midnapore record maximum temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius generally in April and May. Educational institutions and district health departments have been taking stock of the situation weeks before mid-April when summer begins to peak in the region.
Sources in the IMD said the heat wave-like condition was on for Birbhum, Bankura, western Burdwan, Purulia and West Midnapore. They said the IMD was monitoring the situation closely and would take a call on declaring a heat wave condition tomorrow.
Senior Met officials attributed the heat to unrestricted flow of northwesterly winds through the plains of north India. "Dry, hot northwesterly winds have been blowing into the western parts of south Bengal. No weather system, like a cyclonic circulations in central India, exists right now to obstruct or restrict the flow," said Sanjib Bandyopadhyay, the deputy director-general, IMD Calcutta.
Sriniketan recorded the maximum temperature of 38.6 degrees Celsius today, while the mercury touched 40.9 in Purulia. Asansol's highest temperature today was 40.9 degrees Celsius, while it was 42.6 degrees Celsius in Bankura.
According to the Met office in Alipore, Calcutta, the all time record maximum temperature in March in Bankura was 43.1 degrees Celsius recorded on March 24, 2010. Yesterday, Bankura recorded 43.5 degrees Celsius.
With the mercury climbing to 41.8 degrees Celsius at Sriniketan yesterday, the highest in March since 2010, Visva-Bharati has decided to lengthen its summer vacation by 15 days. "We have decided to declare a month's vacation this summer, but it will start only after examinations are over," officiating vice-chancellor Swapan Kumar Datta said today.
Making matters worse was a 40-minute power cut in Santiniketan and Bolpur last night. The state-run power distribution company, however, has denied knowledge of the outage.
Gautam Saha, the secretary of Adhyapak Sabha and a teacher of Siksha Satra at Visva-Bharati, said the temperatures in late March indicated a "terrible" summer ahead. "We have appealed for extra holidays. At the school, we are starting morning sessions from Monday, a week earlier than usual," said Saha.
The Bankura Medical College and Hospital has decided to set up water coolers on the premises and install new air-conditioners in several wards.
The Burdwan Medical College and Hospital has opened a special observation ward to treat sunstroke patients, although no such cases have been reported yet.
Durgapur subdivisional officer Sankha Santra said hospitals had been asked to stock up on oral rehydration solution. Bankura district magistrate Moumita Basu Godara said the district was read to combat the fallout of excessive heat, but was yet to receive reports of anybody falling ill because of the weather.