More than 100 feared dead as intense heat wave grips India

This is a second consecutive year marred by a deadly heat wave before the monsoon rains

INDIA – Indian officials say more than 100 people have lost their lives as a result of boiling early-summer temperatures. Most of the heat-wave victims were laborers and farmers in the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, though temperatures elsewhere in India have also hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

Schools were closed last week in Orissa until at least 26 April. Officials in Andhra Pradesh were giving out free water and buttermilk to help people stay hydrated. And everywhere, people have been urged to stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day.

Y.K. Reddy, a director at the Indian Meteorological Department, said Telangana has recorded its highest April temperatures since at least 2006.

Reddy further warned that the death toll in Telangana is expected to rise, and meteorological officials have advised local residents to stay indoors.

P.K. Mohapatra, a special relief commissioner in the state, said, ‘We had never recorded such high temperatures in these months in more than 100 years.’ Some small-scale businesses were already suffering.

The heat wave in India coincides with record-high temperatures across the globe. On Tuesday, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said March’s average global temperature of 12.7 degrees Celsius (54.9 Fahrenheit) was not only the hottest March, but continues a record 11-month streak that started last May.

A 12-year-old girl in the drought-stricken western state of Maharashtra died from the heat while fetching water.

Tulu Sahu, a small grocery seller said, “I am closing my shop before noon because it is too hot, you cannot stay in the shop.’

Heat waves are relatively common during Indian summers, authorities have done little to ensure water security or prepare urban populations for the risks. This year, Orissa’s capital of Bhubaneshwar and Maharashtra’s city of Nagpur joined Gujarat’s Ahmedabad in launching a heat wave program to educate people on how to stay cool, provide shelters and train medical workers on dealing with heat-related illnesses like sun stroke and dehydration.

For southern India, this is the second consecutive year marred by a deadly heat wave. Last year, around 2,500 people died in scorching temperatures before the monsoon rains began in the Indian subcontinent in early June.

Pakistan, where extreme heat killed more than 1,000 people during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan last year, has started gearing up to tackle any sudden rise of patients who report heat-related illnesses.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

Tribune International