Jan. 15: The cold wave continued to sweep across the districts of south Bengal, pusing the mercury further down by a degree today. The bitterest spell of cold in the last decade has sent the administration scurrying for supplies of blanket for the poor and the homeless.
Six more deaths, including that of two children, have been reported from Murshidabad, where the toll now stands at 11. With Behrampore recording 6.5°C — the lowest in recent memory — several private schools have suspended morning classes. The dipping temperature has also kept many people in the district away from their jobs.
Though the district administration has not acknowledged the deaths, unofficial sources said reports of casualties have come from Khargram, Nowda and Lalgola police station areas for the past few days.
Mumtaz Begum, the panchayat chief of Sadole under the Khargram police station, said two children have died in the area. “Two-year-old Nayantara Khatun of Shankarpur village and five-year-old Serej Sheikh of Bhatkanda village have perished due to the bitter cold conditions on Tuesday,” she said.
Four elderly persons also succumbed to the intense cold. Patan Chowkidar, 75, of Palladanga village in the Jalangi police station area, Khoka Chowkidar, 61, of Inatpur village and Haroon al Rashid, 70, of Muraripur village, both in the Domkol police station area, and Sakshi Das, 60, of Daphaghat village under the Suti police station died in the past 24 hours.
In Burdwan town, where the mercury dipped to 5°C this morning, the sub-divisional officers have been asked to find pavement dwellers and the homeless who live on platforms and distribute blankets among them. In other parts of the district, like Asansol and Durgapur, few people were seen outdoors as an icy wind blew from the north.
In Birbhum, where a huge festival is on at Kenduli, private charities have distributed blankets to the poor pilgrims arriving there for the few days on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
Villagers of Ichhanagari under Hooghly’s Jangipara police station failed to give a fresh lease of life to an electrocuted langur, blaming his death on the cold. After finding it unconscious in the field, the kind villagers had tried to revive it through the night.
“We kept a night-long vigil and called a vet. We fed it warm milk and covered it with a blanket, but the langur died this morning in the bitter cold,” said Abu Talha, a villager.
The saddened villagers took the corpse in a procession and cremated it.