Soaring heatwave in Bangladesh leads to school closures, power cuts

Soaring heatwave in Bangladesh leads to school closures, power cuts
Temperatures in Bangladesh have soared to nearly 41 degrees Celsius, where scientists have attributed factors such as climate change to the more severe heat.
3 min read
Bangladeshi children cool off in the Buriganga River in Dhaka as temperatures soar in the South Asian country [Getty]

A searing heatwave in Bangladesh spurred the closure of primary schools this week and triggered frequent power cuts, worsening conditions for residents unable to run fans to cool themselves as weather officials warned relief was not imminent.

The maximum temperature soared to nearly 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) from 32C 10 days ago. The Bangladesh Meteorological Department warned that there was no end in sight for the heat.

Scientists have said climate change is contributing to more frequent, severe, and longer heat waves during summer months.

Bangladesh could face power cuts for two more weeks, said Nasrul Hamid, minister of state for power, energy and mineral resources, as a fuel shortage sparked shutdowns of several power-generating units, including its biggest coal-fired plant.

"Due to the global energy crisis and the unprecedented surge in international currency markets, we are exposed to this unwanted load shedding," Hamid said in a Facebook post.

This heatwave comes as the country already grapples with power cuts that have hurt its economy in recent months, including its crucial apparel sector that accounts for more than 80 percent of its exports.

“The weather is unreasonably hot these days but the hours-long power cuts further add to our miseries,” said Mizanur Rahman, a shopkeeper in the capital Dhaka.

Residents were seeking medical attention due to the heat.

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"We are getting many patients who have suffered heat-stroke or other heat-related problems," said Shafiqul Islam, a physician in the northwestern part of the country.

Authorities have been encouraging residents to stay indoors and drink water, but the heatwave along with power cuts have also resulted in water shortages in many places.

"The water shortage and the heat are suffocating us," said Mohammad Sultan, 52, a rickshaw puller.

"Not a leaf is moving anywhere. There's no shade. It is becoming tough to pull a rickshaw. Very difficult!," he said.

"I lost over 20 (chickens alone today) due to excessive heat. The electricity is going off for over two hours at a time. I can't even sleep properly. I feel so helpless,” chicken seller Mohamad Suman, 37, said.

The power crunch could also disrupt summer clothes supplies for retailers such as Walmart, Gap Inc, H&M , VF Corp, Zara and American Eagle Outfitters, some of Bangladesh's largest export customers.

The loss of exports will exacerbate issues around the country's dollar reserves, which have plunged by nearly a third in the 12 months through April to a seven-year low, and limited its ability to pay for fuel imports.

"I am deeply sorry for your suffering. I also want to assure you this situation is temporary. We will be back in good condition very soon," Hamid, the state power official, said.