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Heat wave alert, power trips

Searing winds from the central Indian plains scorched Calcutta on Thursday, and a major power crisis compounded the agony.

The maximum temperature was pegged at 39.1 degrees Celsius, five degrees above normal. A heat wave warning has been issued for the next 48 hours across the state, except in Darjeeling, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri.

This is the second heat wave this month, after the June 2 alert issued by the meteorological department following a high of 40.6 degrees.

Hope lies in the detection by weather scientists of the first signs of monsoon winds making the crucial U-turn in the Bay of Bengal, that will bring rain on the mainland.

A number of city schools, including South Point, Mahadevi Birla Girls' School and St Augustine's Day School, declared a holiday from Friday till early-to-mid next week due to the heat.

MP Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School will remain closed through next week, while Welland Gouldsmith School will have half-day lessons till the monsoon arrives.

Strong hot winds from the west are blowing over Calcutta and the districts, pushing the temperature up. 'The heat has become unbearable because of the high moisture content in the air,' said G.C. Debnath, director of the weather section at the Alipore Met office.

Adding to the misery, power cuts lasting around three hours hit various parts of the city through the day. The 250 MW unit at CESC's Budge Budge power plant collapsed due to a tube leak in its boiler. The situation worsened after 10 am, when another 60 MW CESC unit broke down at Titagarh due to an 'electrical fault'.

The power deficit increased to over 300 MW in the CESC-supplied areas, following which the private power utility sent an SOS to the state electricity board (SEB).

'At 9 am, we supplied 200 MW and at 10 am, we supplied 320 MW to the CESC grid. In doing so, we had to deprive the districts to some extent,' an SEB official said.

Though the Titagarh unit was fired by 2 pm, the Budge Budge unit is not expected to function before Friday evening, and the power cuts are expected to continue till then.

'We expect the situation to improve from either late on Friday or Saturday morning, as a 500 MW unit at National Thermal Power Corporation's plant in Farakka is likely to be running,' said a power department official.

The situation improved late in the afternoon when the SEB supplied 530 MW, avoiding the evening peak-hour shortfall. The Kolaghat and Bakreswar plants pitched in, as did Damodar Valley Corporation and Durgapur Projects Limited, said M.K. Roy, member (commercial) of the SEB.

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