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Assam Heat Wave Claims Five.

Nearly five people have died due to sunstroke during the past week in Assam. The severe heat wave has also necessitated the closure of schools and colleges according to official reports//.

"The normal temperature in the past week was at least four degrees Celsius above normal and the state has also received 41 percent less rainfall so far this year, which is a matter of concern", Dulal Chakraborty, deputy director general of the Regional Meteorological Centre in Guwahati.

The soaring temperatures coupled with an abnormally dry spell has prompted the Assam government to order closure of all educational institutions from last Wednesday to Aug 23.

"We cannot take chances and put the lives of students at risk as the state is experiencing a heat wave," state Education Minister Ripun Bora said.

Guwahati last week recorded 38 degrees Celsius, the highest temperature in the month of August in the last 16 years, met officials said.

"The unusually hot and humid weather condition is due to the blowing of dry continental winds from Myanmar and southern China," Chakraborty said.

On Saturday, state authorities sounded an alert asking officials to work out contingency plans to avert a 'famine' in the wake of the prevailing drought-like situation.

"The situation is indeed worrying and we have instructed our officials to ensure incentives and other facilities to farmers whose croplands have been severely affected due to the drought-like situation," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said at a meeting of senior officials here to review the situation.

The government has earmarked a whopping Rs.500 million to help farmers tide over the crisis with 19 of the 27 districts in the state having received "scanty or very little rainfall" this year.

"I have never experienced this kind of a weather condition in all my life," said Bijit Das, an elderly peasant in Hajo, a village on the outskirts o f Guwahati.

Experts, however, said there was no need for worry. "There were just two occasions a century ago when a moderate drought was recorded in Assam. Worry of drought is not there," a met official said.

More than 75 percent of Assam's 26 million people eke out a living through agriculture. The state is also hit by flooding during the monsoons.

Every year the monsoon causes the Brahmaputra to overflow its banks in Assam. In 2004, at least 200 people died and millions were displaced. A wave of flooding that began in June in some parts of Assam killed 11 people and displaced around half-a-million people.

"But compared to previous years, the floods this year were almost negligible," said state flood control minister Bhumidhar Barman.

The annual floods leave a trail of destruction, washing away villages, submerging paddy fields, drowning livestock, besides causing loss of human life and property, in Assam.

Local villagers in many parts of the state were taking recourse to superstition - performing frog marriages in an effort to appease the rain god and end a near drought like situation in the region. Source : IANS


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