A blistering heat wave has resulted in the deaths of at least 800 people in India.
The majority of the deaths have occurred in India’s two southeastern states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where temperatures have neared 50 degrees Celsius (122º Fahrenheit). The Wall Street Journal reports that hospitals have been “swamped” with people suffering from heatstroke, dehydration fever, burns, rashes and skin allergies.
On Monday, the special commissioner of disaster management in Andhra Pradesh, P. Tulsi Rani, said temperatures in the state hovered around 48-49 degrees Celsius (118-120º F) for the last four to five days. Rani said that her department has been advising citizens to avoid stepping outside their homes or businesses during midday, to use umbrellas or wear caps, drink water and avoid keeping an empty stomach.
“We have also requested NGOs and government organizations to open up drinking water camps so that water will be readily available for all the people in the towns,” said Rani.
In Telangana, temperatures rose to 120º F over the weekend. In the nation’s capital, New Delhi, roads have literally melted.
On Monday, the Hindustan Times Daily reported that New Delhi reached a two-year record for maximum temperature, at 45.5ºC, five degrees higher than the seasonal average.
In Andhra Pradesh, a confirmed 551 people have suffered heat-related deaths in the last week alone. In Telangana, the heat claimed the lives of 231 people. In Orissa, a western state, 11 people are confirmed to have died from heat. Thirteen have died in the eastern state of West Bengal.
More deaths are expected as air conditioning units work overtime and raise the risk of electricity outages in the states’ already overloaded energy grids.
Hundreds of people die from India’s summer heat every year, and though these temperatures are high, they have yet to cross the country’s record maximum. According to a 2005 report from the Indian Geophysical Union, temperatures in Alwar City reached 50.6ºC (123ºF) in 1956.