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Mercury rises, power trips

Maximum temperature: 38.6 degree Celsius and climbing. Relative humidity: 94 per cent and rising. Cable faults: widespread and crippling.

As a scorching sun continued to beat down for the third day on Friday, cable faults led to power failure in some areas and at least one major hospital.

Officials at the regional meteorological centre at Alipore could not hold out hope for a cooler Saturday. They warned that Saturday’s maximum temperature would inch closer to the Wednesday high of 39.6 degrees.

“We had detected clouds on our radar around 3.30 pm on Friday and thought a Nor’wester was brewing. But the clouds soon cleared,” said a weather office spokesperson, adding that the government had also been told about the hot spell continuing.

After receiving the weather warning, the government alerted the district magistrates. Health officials said that additional stocks of oral rehydration salt (ORS) and intravenous fluids have been rushed to the hospitals in the city and districts.

The relief department also shot off messages to district magistrates, asking them to report any deaths or illnesses caused by the heat. “We have sent out a guideline to be followed. We have asked people to drink more water and avoid the sun,” said Nikhilesh Das, relief secretary.

But Friday saw health services hit by a combination of heat and power failure at SSKM Hospital. The lights went out for around 45 minutes from 9.15 am. “Treatment of patients was severely affected and operations had to be pushed back,” said superintendent Deb Dwaipayan Chattopadhyay.

Major cable faults were also reported from CESC-served areas like Kalindi in the north and Marquis Street in central Calcutta. This sparked prolonged power cuts in the Lake Town area, Patipukur, Marquis Street, Free School Street and its adjoining areas since Thursday evening.

The Kalindi fault was restored early on Friday. The Marquis Street fault was repaired during the day. Snags were also reported from Nagerbazar in the north and Picnic Garden in the south. Sources in the state electricity board said that at least 50 local faults had been reported over the past 24 hours.

“There is a problem of overloading. On Friday, we held meetings with local councillors and decided that we will instal two new transformers on Marquis Street,” said a CESC official.

Till late on Friday, weather officials held out little hope for Calcuttans. The monsoon, they said, usually arrives in Calcutta and the rest of south Bengal on June 8. “We received information on Friday that the rains have already started in the Andaman Islands. The rains set in in Kerala and gradually move to Bengal. We are yet to pinpoint when the monsoon will arrive this year,” said the Met Office spokesman.

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