Almost entire Bangladesh was wrapped in clouds of fogs throughout Thursday as temperatures dipped with a mild cold wave gradually spreading from the north to engulf the entire country over the next two days.
Chilling winds forced people to stay indoors, both in villages and cities, and overcast skies forced motorists to drive with their headlights on, even on the highways.
Hospitals saw an onrush of patients with cold related diseases as at least 6,171 people fell ill with cold related illness in 24 hours ending Thursday morning.
‘The cold spell will continue and spread across Bangladesh until Saturday,’ said meteorologist Abdur Rahman.
On Thursday, the lowest temperature in the country was recorded 7.9° C in Chuadanga.
The temperatures fell below 10° C at many places in Rajshahi, Rangpur and Khulna.
In the capital, the minimum temperature was recorded at 13° C, marking a fall of more than three degrees from the previous day.
The Met Office calls it a mild cold wave when the minimum temperatures remain between 10° C and 8° C.
The cold wave turns moderate when the temperature remains between 8° C and 6° C and severe when it falls below 5° C.
In northern districts, poor people burnt straws and lit fire to keep them warm as they did not have enough to protect them against the biting cold.
‘I could not go out for work last two days,’ said Nur Jahan Bewa, 52, a resident of Banagram village, in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila.
She said that she would have to starve if the temperature did not improve and she stayed indoors.
Saidul Islam, 46, a rickshaw-puller at Shaheed Shajahan Colony, a slum area in Lalmonirhat town, shared similar experience and avoided going out for work.
Dhaka Medical College professor Khan Abul Kalam Azad urged people to stay warm and reduce their outdoor working hour if the temperature falls below 15° C for people in Bangladesh was not physically fit to cope with the temperature.
Cold reduces metabolic activities in body, results in reduced functioning of liver, brain and kidney, he said.
He urged people to maintain 24° C temperature indoors to keep away illness.
He also warned people against eating cold foods, especially directly from the freezer as there are many bacteria that rive on cold temperature and may cause diarrhoea.
He urged people to go outside with their head, neck, hands and feet completely covered in case of a cold wave.
‘People in Bangladesh are used to live in 40° C,’ said Azad.
‘It could really be dangerous for them when temperature falls below 10° C,’ said Azad.
The health emergency control room said that at least 893 people suffered acute respiratory tract infection because of cold in 24 hours until Thursday morning.
The rest of the sick suffered diarrhoeas, fever, skin disease, jaundice and other cold related diseases, said the health control room.
Physicians specifically asked diabetes patients to remain cautious for reduced walking might increase their blood sugar.
But most of the people are unlikely to follow the precautions as many do not have a decent accommodation to stay away from cold weather.
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, about 90 per cent of houses in Bangladesh are considered temporary or semi-permanent by the nature of construction — being made of bamboo, wood, mud, tin or brick-wall.
On Thursday, the Met Office forecast that the cold wave would spread over the next two days.
In its afternoon bulletin the Met Office said that the cold wave was sweeping across Rajshahi, Pabna, Naogaon, Kurigram, Nilphamari, Jashore and Chuadanga at the moment.
New Age correspondent in Rangpur reported that vehicular movement remained thin as people avoided going out need because of chilling cold winds.
Fogs disrupted vehicular movement on the highway and many rickshaw-pullers and farmers decided to remain indoors, he reported.
‘I don’t know what we will eat if I cannot go to work,’ said Nuru Miah, a van-puller of Mahadebpur, Rangpur.
Rangpur deputy commissioner Asib Ahasan said that they distributed 64,400 blankets in eight upazillas on Thursday.
Rangpur Medical College Hospital deputy director Rafiqul Islam said that the rush of patients with cold related diseases increased sharply, many of them are children and elderly.
New Age correspondent in Lalmonirhat reported that chilling wind continued to disrupt normal life in the district for the third consecutive day.
Lalmonirhat deputy commissioner Abu Jafor said that they distributed 28,700 blankets and called for more allocation of warm clothes from the government.
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