A man riding a motorbike blanked out while climbing the Taratala flyover on Tuesday afternoon, drifting to the left and keeling over as his two-wheeler rammed into the railing.
Dilip Halder, a 35-year-old sales executive, had been on the move since morning and apparently couldn’t take the scorching sun anymore on a day when the Celsius hit 40 degrees — five notches above normal — to signal the second heatwave of the season.
Some other motorbike riders stopped to help Halder and took off his helmet to find him sweating profusely and seemingly unconscious. He came to when someone sprinkled water on his face, having got away with trousers torn at the knee and a few cuts and bruises.
A few gulps of water and a five-minute breather later, Halder was on his way again.
The weather office has warned that Calcuttans on the move would have to brave the heatwave for two more days.
The weather is likely to remain uncharacteristically dry, which coupled with the heat causes a burning sensation on the skin when someone steps out in the sun without extra cover.
Tuesday’s maximum temperature, the highest this season, was recorded shortly after 2.30pm, satisfying the conditions required for the Met office to declare a heatwave.
The temperature had started rising as soon as the sun came out with the Alipore observatory recording 27.8 degrees Celsius by 5.30am, when relative humidity was 66 per cent.
By 8.30am, the Celsius had climbed to 33.4 degrees. At 11.30am, the reading was 38.8 degrees Celsius, soaring like Glenn Maxwell’s sixes this IPL season.
“We expect the heatwave to continue for the next couple of days because there is no weather system at the moment supplying water vapour to land from sea. For the same reason, there is no possibility of rain,” said Gokul Chandra Debnath, director of the India Meteorological Department, Calcutta.
At 2.30pm on Tuesday, with the mercury reading 39.6 degrees and minimum relative humidity at 28 per cent, the discomfort index read 64.8 degrees Celsius, 10 notches above the comfort level. Monday’s discomfort index, which gauges the combined effect of heat and humidity on the human body, was a few notches lower at 62.6 degrees Celsius.
Under a cloudless sky, solar radiation received by the earth was high, making surface winds hot and prompting many Calcuttans to wrap a piece of cloth around their faces to keep the skin from burning.
According to critical care expert Subrata Maitra, that is the right thing to do as hot air increases the body temperature if it enters through the nostrils or ears, raising the chances of a heat stroke.
“One must, however, take care to wrap a light-coloured cotton cloth around the face. It must not be wound around the face very tightly because that would cause sweating and the person could fall sick,” Maitra advised.
It is also important to keep yourself hydrated, the doctor said, preferably with salt water. The body loses salt and water in the form of sweat in hot conditions.
Maitra said biker Halder might have suffered from “heat exhaustion”, a milder form of heat stroke that would have caused his blood pressure to fall suddenly. “This could happen if one doesn’t drink water despite feeling thirsty after long hours in the sun. An umbrella is a must when one is walking in the sun,” Maitra said.
Halder had set out of his Thakurpukur home at 9am. He first visited his office in Behala before attending a “customer call” at Amtala, from where he was on his way to Ekbalpore when the heat got to him around 1.15pm.