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Heat wave firmly grips India, 340 people dead

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The intense heat wave in India is holding a firm grip on the region since April 2016. At least 340 people have died so far, 102 of which in May only. Temperatures have locally risen above 45°C (113 °F), according to media reports, and a significant drop is not expected anytime soon. Local authorities have enforced unprecedented laws, such as cooking and religious fire ritual ban to battle the hot and sweltering conditions.

Curfew situation is in effect in several parts of the Madhya Pradesh state. The hottest day so far was reported in the northern regions on May 15, as temperatures climbed above 45 °C (113 °F). At the same time, maximum day temperature was recorded in Nowgong, Chhatarpur district, where mercuries rose to 46.5 °C (115.7 °F), making it the hottest city in India.

Video credit: DW English

45.8°C (114.4°F) was measured in Gwalior, 45.5 °C (113.9 °F) in Datiya, 45 °C (113 °F) in Shivpuri and Satna, while 44.8 °C (112.6 °F) was observed in Sagar, and 44.6 °C (112.3 °F) in Bhumaria.

Minimum measured temperatures lingered around 30 °C (86 °F) during night times. Despite minimum amounts of rainfall observed in Sagar and Gwalior on May 16, no relief from the heat was felt. Over the last couple of days, Madhya Pradesh experienced another rise in temperatures, which is likely due to change in wind direction, and discontinuation in pre-Monsoon weather conditions. The hot and dry, northwest and west winds, moving in from Balochistan and Rajasthan have contributed to this heat enhancement.

In Delhi, observed maximum temperatures climbed above 40 °C (104 °F) for five consecutive days in the early May. 46°C (114.8°F) was reported on May 3 while temperatures near 44 °C (111.2 °F) were recorded over the last 4 days.

According to the Center for Holistic Development (CHD), the current weather conditions and the lack of adequately provided shelters for the homeless people in Delhi, are responsible for the high death toll reported. Some shelter residents reported the tin boxes become unbearably hot under heat wave conditions.

“More than 20 deaths have been reported in Kashmere Gate area in fourteen days of May. Bodies of victims were found in different spots of Delhi, with primary investigations suggesting that extreme hot weather lead to the deaths,” explained Sunil Kumar Aledia, executive director, CHD, Delhi.

“Besides harsh climatic conditions, these shelters do not have material for proper hydration, ceiling fans or coolers," said Sarawati, a shelter resident.

Video credit: FRANCE 24 English

Some affected regions have taken unprecedented steps in battling the heat wave conditions. The eastern portion of Bihar has forbidden cooking between 9 am and 6 pm following episodes of accidental fires, caused by the weather conditions, which claimed 79 lives. The burning of used crops and religious fire rituals have also been banned.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the heat wave will spread across the northern and central India over the coming five days. However, the hot conditions will gradually ease during the rest of May. The monsoon rains are not expected in the region until June.

"These conditions are likely to spread over to some more areas comprising parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Gujarat and north Madhya Maharashtra during May 17-21. They are likely to abate gradually during the remaining part of May," the IMD said.

At the same time, parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and south Karnataka will experience rainfall due to a low pressure system over the region, which is expected to bring some relief.

Featured image credit: DW English

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3 Comments

  1. “Besides harsh climatic conditions, these shelters do not have material for proper hydration, ceiling fans or coolers,”. Beside covering the tin roofs with a thick layer of mud, hydration requires 2 to 6 empty plastic bottles per person. I hope these poor people will receive these.

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