Southern and Eastern India are struggling with the consequences of severe drought caused by an early season heat wave and the lack of relief from monsoon rain. Dangerously high temperatures have so far claimed over 160 lives while 330 million people are affected by the conditions.
The majority of the victims were laborers and farmers across the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha, according to media reports. 55 people died in Odisha, at least 45 in Andra Pradesh, and 66 deaths are attributed to heat-related conditions in Telangana, although this remains to be s. However, temperatures in other parts of the country have climbed to 45 °C (113 °F), as well.
According to Y.K. Reddy, a state's meteorologists, the current temperatures are between 4 and 5 °C (8 to 10 °F) higher than average ones for the month of April and are more common in May. April 16, and local officials in Andra Pradesh organized to give out free water and buttermilk to those affected. People have been advised to stay indoors whenever possible during the hottest time of the day.
Severe water shortage caused by the drought is strongly affecting the population. According to media reports, thousands of farmers have committed suicide, tens of thousands of farm animals have died, and crops have been lost. Tankers of water have been sent to farming communities in Maharashtra. People have been banned from drilling deep wells, and farmers have been instructed to stop growing sugarcane crops, which swallow large amounts of water.
Record-high temperatures have been reported from other parts of the world, as well. According to US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the global average temperature recorded in March 2016 was 12.7°C (54.9°F), which was not only the highest March temperature ever recorded, but also continues a record 11-month track that started in May 2015.
This is the second year in a row that the southern India has experienced a deadly heat wave. About 2 500 people died last year as hot conditions wrapped the country. To educate the people on the risks of high temperatures and prepare them for the conditions, the city of Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Odisha, Nagpur in Maharashtra, and Ahmedabad in Gujarat have launched a heat wave program. The program provides the instructions on how to keep cool, and information on shelters and trained medical workers to help cope with heat-related illnesses such as stroke and dehydration.
According to officials, eagerly expected relief from monsoon rains is unfortunately still weeks away.
Featured image credit: Kaustav das Modak (CC-Flickr)