An unrelenting heat wave continued to scorch Odisha on Saturday. Over the last 24 hours, Titlagarh recorded the season’s highest temperature of 47.5 degree Celsius. The heat wave has extracted a terrible toll of human lives with 73 deaths across the state so far.
At least 16 urban centres recorded temperatures of over 40 degree Celsius – seven of them over 45 degree. And the heat wave is unlikely to end soon.
“Heat wave conditions are likely to prevail at many places with severe heat wave at one or two places over Odisha. The weather is mostly like to be dry across the state,” said SC Sahu, Director of Indian Meteorological Department’s Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre.
Respite is a long way off. Met officials said the heat wave conditions may continue till the first week of May, with both maximum and minimum temperatures predicted to remain above normal throughout the state.
This year, the blistering summer hit Odisha earlier than expected. The state government had asked the collectors of all 30 districts to remain prepared to tackle heat wave situation by arranging adequate water supply and stocking life saving medicines as early as mid-Februaruy.
But consistently high temperature has thrown normal life out of gear in all parts of the state, with at least 14 urban centres crossing 40 degree Celsius for more than a fortnight now.
Odisha’s Deputy Special Relief Commissioner PR Mohapatra said the government had received reports of 73 deaths so far. “After inquiry two deaths have been confirmed as due to sunstroke while 24 others were found to be due to other reasons. The causes of the other deaths are still to be determined,” Mohapatra said.
The unforgiving heat has dried up water bodies and rivers in the state. The government has engaged around 1000 tankers to supply drinking water to parched rural and urban areas.
But that has proved insufficient for the needs of people, especially in rural areas. Out of over 1.57 lakh populated areas in Odisha, only 10,192 are covered under rural water pipeline.
The situation has been made worse by the shortage of staff at grassroots level in Rural Development and Panchayati Raj departments. More than 1500 posts including those of engineers are lying vacant in the Rural Development department. Officials said they failed to attend to the complaints to fix defunct tube wells due to lack of field staff.