Sun and shower, sick spell in between

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Calcutta
  • Published 4.06.05
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Calcutta, June 4: After a spell of scorching days, the city heaved a sigh of relief as the Nor’wester pulled down the mercury several notches, but doctors said the heat had already dealt a telling blow.

An alarming rise in cases of asthma and viral infections over the past two weeks was a result of the hot spell, the experts said.

Early this week, strong hot and dry winds from the central Indian plains, blowing across Bihar and Jharkhand, and very little wind from the Bay of Bengal caused a steep rise in day temperature.

“The temperature had been rising rapidly over the past month or so and most Calcuttans with some kind of respiratory distress found it impossible to cope with, especially in the past few weeks. Asthma cases have simply doubled? from about 10 a day to at least 20,” said Ashok Sengupta, a respiratory disease expert at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital.

If the scorching heat was taking a heavy toll in the first half of the week, a strong southerly wind blowing from the sea from yesterday at about 20 km an hour raised the levels of humidity and moisture in the air.

“In the past 30 hours, the city and adjoining areas have received a heavy incursion of moisture from the bay, leading to the slow formation of rain clouds,” a senior official at the regional meteorological centre in Alipore said.

But some of the damage was already done.

“To beat the heat, many people had fizzy drinks and cold water, which led to a sharp rise in viral respiratory tract infections. Acute dehydration from working outdoors and cases of dizziness have also poured into doctors’ chambers in the past two weeks,” said physician Susovan Haldar.

Skin ailments, especially fungal infections and rashes, have also seen an alarming rise.

“The heat has taken a toll on the elderly, especially those having medicines for high blood pressure. The heat has caused the pressure to drop from too much loss of body fluids,” Haldar explained.

But if not rain, the Met office brought some relief with the promise of cloud. A low-pressure trough that developed over Himachal Pradesh has moved towards Gangetic Bengal, it said. Another low pressure has developed over Bengal, also causing the incursion of moisture.

“Moreover, a cyclonic circulation of winds over Bihar and neighbouring states is bringing more moisture and causing some rainfall,” an official explained. “All the factors are working around the same time, resulting in the rain clouds gathering strength.”