Heatwave Bakes India, Claiming More Than 700 Lives — Monsoon Coming To Provide Some Relief

A scorching heatwave in India has so far claimed as many as 750 lives and it shows no signs of abating, though a monsoon roiling off the country’s west coast may provide some relief.

Temperatures soared to an unimaginable 117.8 degrees on Sunday in the northern part of India; the capital Dehli had it a little better, with a high at 110.3 degrees, Reuters reported.
Heatwave to severe heatwave conditions (will) prevail” during the week, India’s weather bureau has warned, added Agence France-Press.

Meteorologists believe the heatwave has been caused by a drought, dry and hot northwest winds, and clear skies. India has been baking since April, but the deaths only just started. The numbers are staggering – over 750 have died, reported NDTV. However, the BBC reported about 539 deaths; about 325 in the last three days of sunstroke and dehydration. The death toll is expected to climb even higher.

The most common victims are construction workers, the elderly, and homeless.

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“The majority of the victims are people who have been exposed to the sun directly, usually aged 50 and above and from the working classes,” the country’s disaster management India heatwave’s special commissioner, P. Tulsi Rani, told AFP.

Sadly, these deaths aren’t uncommon – hundreds in the poorer segment of Indian society die every summer when the mercury climbs. Among the suffering is farmer Ahmed Pasha, who has 12 acres, and said he has simply run out of water.

“It has all gone so dry that more than 50% of the grass that I had grown for the buffaloes and the goats has dried up.”

And a businessman, Ravinder Reddy, told the BBC that he’s been stuck in his house for a week due to the heatwave, and two of his employees are in the hospital with heat stroke.

And for that reason, time off has been cancelled for the country’s doctors. Hospitals are overwhelmed with those suffering under the heatwave and the government is offering $1,575 to the families of the deceased.

Even taxis are being pulled off the road. In one city in India, two drivers died in their cars from heat stroke, leading the rest to refuse operating during the hottest hours of the day – especially in cars without air-conditioning. Taxi unions elsewhere have advised their workers to do the same.

During the heatwave, the government is advising people to wear hats, use an umbrella, wear light cotton clothing, and drink lots of water or buttermilk, and to stay home from work between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, monsoon season is expected to begin soon. A storm is brewing off the west coast, Times of India reported, and may hit the southern coastline by May 31. As the heatwave’s death toll continues to rise, everyone is hoping this much-needed rain will provide relief.

[Photo Courtesy CCTV News Twitter]