74 dead as heatwave takes heavy toll on India

Citing the meteorological department, Indian media reports there is a prediction of heatwave in 10 states

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AFP
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Web Desk
74 dead as heatwave takes heavy toll on India
A delivery partner with Swiggy, an Indian online-delivery company, rides a low-speed two-wheeler electric vehicle on a bridge on a hot summer day, during a heatwave in New Delhi, India, on May 31, 2024. —Reuters

NEW DELHI: At least 74 people have died of heatstroke in just two Indian states — Bihar and Uttar Pradesh — during previous 48 hours, Indian Express reported Saturday.

According to the publication, 25 of those who died because of sunstroke were polling staff performing their duties as final phase of elections in India is underway.

Citing the meteorological department, the Financial Express reported there is a prediction of heatwave in Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Punjab, West Rajasthan, East Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Vidarbha, isolated pockets of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Coastal Andhra Pradesh, and Yanam.

It is pertinent to mention that India has so far not published nationwide figures for deaths attributed to the current heatwave.

India court seeks heatwave emergency declaration

An Indian court has urged the government to declare a national emergency over the country’s ongoing heatwave, saying that hundreds of people had died during weeks of extreme weather.

India is enduring a crushing heatwave with temperatures in several cities sizzling well above 45°C (113°F).

The high court in the western state of Rajasthan, which has suffered through some of the hottest weather this week, said authorities had failed to take appropriate steps to protect the public from the heat.

"Due to extreme weather conditions in the form of (the) heatwave, hundreds of people have lost their lives this month," the court said Thursday.

"We do not have a planet B which we can move onto... If we do not take strict action now, we will lose the chance of seeing our future generations flourish forever."

The court directed the state government to set up compensation funds for relatives of any person who dies as a result of heat ailments.

Relatives of heatstroke victims told AFP that the state’s rundown public hospitals were struggling to cope with the influx of patients through the week.

"The air conditioning in the emergency ward wasn’t functioning on Thursday when dozens of patients were being admitted," said Naresh Kumar Singh from Gaya, one of the state’s worst-affected districts.

Another 14 people died of suspected heatstroke and dozens more were admitted to hospital Thursday in the nearby state of Odisha, broadcaster NDTV reported on Friday.

More frequent, more intense

India is no stranger to searing summer temperatures but years of scientific research have found climate change is causing heatwaves to become longer, more frequent and more intense.

As temperatures in the capital New Delhi shot up this week, power usage in the city of an estimated 30 million people surged to a record high on Wednesday.

Researchers say human-induced climate change has driven the devastating heat impact in India and should be taken as a warning.

The world’s most populous nation is the third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases but has committed to achieving a net zero emissions economy by 2070 — two decades after most of the industrialised West.

For now, it is overwhelmingly reliant on coal for power generation.

The government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking a third term in the elections, says the fossil fuel remains central to meeting India’s rising energy needs and lifting millions of people out of poverty.