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Since 1st March, 1999
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Hounded by power cuts and hot spell

Sabita Basu of Lake Town, was driven to despair in a city powerless and sweltering on Tuesday evening.

“My 86-year-old mother-in-law collapsed during a three-hour power cut in this heat,” cried the 48-year-old homemaker as the city suffered its third day of rising mercury levels and power cuts with three days to go for Mahalaya.

With supply dropping because of wet coal in the monsoon and demand rising because of the mid-September swelter, rotational power cuts between two and four hours plagued the city.

At 7pm, the shortfall in the CESC-served areas was 70MW and that in areas under the state electricity distribution company was around 600MW, plunging Dum Dum, Salt Lake, Lake Town, Ultadanga, Maniktala, Girish Park, Bowbazar, Burrabazar, Ballygunge, Hazra, Tollygunge and other pockets into darkness.

“Restricted imports caused power cuts. Almost every agency has been hit by the erratic coal supply. The situation is likely to improve around Thursday,” said a CESC official.

“The power situation should improve later in the week and normalise by the weekend as the supply of coal picks up,” offered an official of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited.

So, respite should be in sight for parents like Rakhi Roy, 36, of Golf Green, struggling by candlelight with son Rishi’s homework and puja organisers like Santanu Biswas of FD Block in Salt Lake, first drowned by the rain and now darkened by power cuts.

Heavy rain across south Bengal between September 4 and 10 has flooded mines, dampened coal and stymied supply to power plants, triggering the shortfall this week.

The weather gods, meanwhile, seem to have chosen this week to turn off the monsoon tap and turn on the heat. The maximum temperature on Tuesday was 36.2 degree Celsius, four degrees above normal, the discomfort index touched 61 degree Celsius, six points above normal, and the humidity level ranged between 56 and 94 per cent.

“The weakened monsoon flow has resulted in little or no rainfall over the past few days. The abundant moisture in the upper atmosphere is not only pushing up the humidity but also refusing to let the heat escape,” said Gokul Chandra Debnath, the director of the Regional Meteorological Centre at Alipore. Things are likely to improve later in the week.

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