Sizzling heat, delayed monsoon across large parts of India

June 23rd, 2009 - 8:40 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) Heatwave deaths soared, school vacations were extended, religious rituals were performed and drinking water was rationed in at least one state as large parts of India continued to sizzle Tuesday, with no signs of the delayed monsoon arriving to provide relief from the scorching heat.
Gujarat was the only exception, receiving pre-monsoon showers Tuesday afternoon. A total of 56 sub-districts in 17 districts witnessed pre-monsoon activity with rainfall ranging from 3 mm to 10 cm being recorded, the agriculture department official said.

In the national capital, the maximum temperature recorded was a good five degrees above average at 43.7 degrees Celsius - with met officials predicting hotter days ahead.

The heat wave this summer has already claimed 56 lives in Orissa.

“Fifty-six people have died because of the heat wave this summer,” D.N. Sahu, officer on special duty in the state revenue control room, told IANS.

The maximum temperature recorded in Orissa Tuesday was at Sambalpur - 46.2 degrees Celsius, while state capital Bhubaneswar recorded a temperature at 44.6 degrees Celsius.

The state government Tuesday decided to extend the summer vacation of schools to June 29 due to the unprecedented heat wave gripping many parts of the state, officials said.

“The summer vacation was extended up to June 28. The schools will now open on Monday, June 29,” a senior official of the state school and mass education department told IANS.

Usually the summer vacation in the state starts May 1 and ends June 16. However, this year schools announced early vacations from April 21.

The water shortage in Madhya Pradesh is so severe that the state government has introduced water rationing in 115 towns and cities, but water is still being sold at Rs.2 to Rs.5 a bucket at several places.

The lack of rainfall in the state has made the people turn to frog marriages and non-stop prayers to appease the rain gods.

The state government has been performing several ‘Som Yagnas’ (fire rituals) to invoke the skies to let up.

“This is an ancient ritual of ours and it will bless us with good a monsoon. Science is not against Vedas, so we have organised this holy yagna for the rain gods,” Somaji Nana Kale of the Veda Vigyan Ashram in Maharashtra’s Sholapur town, who was roped in by the Madhya Pradesh government for the rituals, told the media in Ujjain.

The last ‘Som Yagna’ was performed last week in Ujjain, with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan participating in the prayers.

With Andhra Pradesh continuing to swelter and the threat of a drought looming large, chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy appealed to Hindus, Muslims and Christian to offer special prayers for rain.

Nearly three weeks after the southwest monsoon was to set in, the state has not received rain and the scorching heat is continuing, pushing the mercury five to six degrees above average.

In Jharkhand, experts said there was no indication that the monsoon will arrive in the state in the next three to four days. They believe that the impact of Cyclone Aila from West Bengal has caused a delay in the monsoon.

“Jharkhand has been affected by the impact of Aila. The monsoon may hit the state by the end of the month or in the first week of July,” said an official of the Ranchi Meteorological Department.

Data from the meteorological department reveals that the monsoon used to hit the state in the first or second week of June. But up until now, there have been no signs of its arrival.

Palamau recorded the maximum temperature of 46 degrees Celsius in Jharkhand Tuesday, while Hazaribagh recorded 39 degrees Celsius.

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