Orissa is in the grip of a killer heatwave,possibly the worst since 1998,with the maximum temperature remaining over 40 degree Celsius for the past three weeks in most parts of the state.
Revenue control room officials said reports of at least 67 heat-related deaths have come from across the state. Of the 37 cases examined,11 were confirmed to have died because of the heat. Khurda,which is near Bhubaneswar,had four confirmed deaths,followed by Balasore and Jajpur (two each) and Cuttack,Jagatsingpur and Angul (one each).
There have been reports of at least four unconfirmed deaths in the tribal district of Mayurbhanj,where a polling official died last week of sunstroke.
Some areas like Talcher recorded a maximum temperature of 45 degrees Celsius last week. Coastal areas of the state,which are expected to have temperate climate,have also recorded 40-plus temperatures over the past two weeks although in some areas the heat came down a couple of notches this week.
Bhubaneswar Met office director Sarat Chandra Sahu said: This is the hottest April in the last 20 years.
Government officials said this was possibly the worst heatwave since the one in 1998 that killed more than 2,000 people,of which 1,500 died in coastal Orissa alone.
An official,however,said despite similar conditions,the number of deaths has been less this year due to rising awareness.
Special Relief Commissioner Nikunja Kishore Sundarray said precautions were being taken to beat the heat. We have asked all schools and colleges to close for the past eight days. There would be no work after 11 am which involves hard labour. Besides Rs 6 crore has been given to the Urban Development Department to tide over the water crisis in cities, he said.
Explaining the hot conditions,Sahu said: This year the heatwave conditions are due to lack of moisture in air and absence of thundersqualls in the afternoon. The cooling off in the atmosphere is not happening and thats keeping the mercury high. Besides,there is hardly any sea breeze to offset the dry north westerly wind.
The heatwave has also affected the rich wildlife in national parks and sanctuaries. With no rainfall in the past six months across forests from Mayurbhanj to Koraput,water bodies have dried up,forcing the wildlife to venture outside in search of water. This has rendered the wildlife vulnerable to poachers,said officials. At Bhitarakanika National Park in Kendrapara district,the artificial water bodies within the park have dried up causing difficulties to around 200 baby crocodiles in the Crocodile Breeding and Research Centre at Dangamal.