| BEAT THE HEAT: Mamata Banerjee covers her head while addressing a rally in Barasat on Monday afternoon. Sunshine is good for the body as it provides Vitamin D. But exposure for long can cause dizziness, she said before wrapping up the programme earlier than schedule. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
A hailstorm and downpour lashed the city, claimed a life and crippled transport on Monday evening, hours after the scorching sun forced the chief minister to cut short her speech at an open-air rally.
A man running towards a shed in an attempt to save himself from the hailstorm was electrocuted after being entangled in a wire that had come loose in Belur. He was taken to a local hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.
Around 35 uprooted trees blocked traffic across vast stretches in south Calcutta and the combined effect of the storm, rain and lightning plunged residential localities into darkness and disrupted flights for close to 45 minutes. An uprooted tree stalled Metro trains on the elevated stretch for more than an hour.
Sources in the traffic control room of the city police said disruptions had been reported from the EM Bypass, Ajaynagar, Mukundapur, Rawdon Street, SP Mukherjee Road, Hazra Road and the Lake Kalibari areas. Waterlogging and loadshedding was reported from several pockets.
Twelve flights had to hover over the airport from 6.45pm to 7.30pm before being allowed to land. The hovering flights included one from Dubai. The departure of around 10 flights was delayed.
Because of the strong wind, the nose of an empty 70-seater ATR aircraft of Jet Airways parked in Bay No. 20 turned several degrees towards the left, said an airport official. In the apron area, six stepladders used for boarding or getting off an aircraft turned turtle.
Hours before, in the afternoon, the city was struggling to beat the swelter. As the discomfort index climbed six degrees above normal to 61, Mamata Banerjee told a 4,000-strong crowd at Vidyasagar Stadium in Barasat: You all have been waiting here for a long time. I will not take much time because of the heat. There is not even a cover over the heads (pointing at the galleries of the stadium).
The chief minister then expanded on the positives and pitfalls of the raging sun. Sunshine is good for the body as it provides Vitamin D. But exposure for long can cause dizziness. We also have to take care that nobody falls sick.
Soon after sundown, the weather gods let it rip, with rain and hail. The weatherman blamed the downpour on a low-pressure trough stretching from Madhya Pradesh to coastal Bangladesh. Rain and thundershowers may occur on Tuesday, too, said an official of the India Meteorological Department, Calcutta.
During the evening squall, the highest wind speed recorded at the Alipore Met office was 40kmph but a spokesperson said the Dum Dum office had recorded a maximum wind speed of 90kmph.
The thunder and lightning started around 7pm and went on till past 8pm. The wind was blowing so fiercely that I was praying there was no serious damage, said Anindita Basu, a resident of Abhyudoy housing complex near Ruby General Hospital on the Bypass.