Vietnamese people combat Indian heatwave

By Xanh Le   June 24, 2023 | 08:13 pm PT
Thuy Nga, a Vietnamese living in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, has been worried ever since her husband collapsed after working during a heatwave last year.

"The doctor said he was dehydrated because of the heat," she said. "Our family factory had to switch to working during the night to avoid similar accidents."

Nga said workers in her factory start working at 7 p.m. during heatwaves, which is exactly what they’re experiencing right now.

She said a lot of workers even quit their jobs during the heat.

She currently employs three workers and even at night she has to run three fans in their small factory space, which is really just a room.

Other heat remedies executed by Nga’s family include eating food made from arrowroot starch and taking alkaline drinks instead of normal water.

Women laborers rest under a tree on a hot summer day near India Gate, in New Delhi, India, on May 15, 2023. Photo by Reuters

Women laborers rest under a tree on a hot summer day near India Gate, in New Delhi, India, on May 15, 2023. Photo by Reuters

Bui Tuyet, another Vietnamese in India, said the same thing about the weather where she live. "The temperature is reported to be between 30 and 43 degrees Celsius, but it feels like 50 degrees," she said.

To survive the heat, she and her family had to install air-conditioners in every room of their house and turn them on at 17 degrees Celsius 24/7. She said most wealthy households in India apply the same method, otherwise the heat in the country is unbearable.

Tuyet and her family also avoid going out during the day. Even standing on their balcony is uncomfortable.

If going out is required, they have to check the weather on their phones first to be best prepared.

"We go by car. Riding motorbikes is too hard in this weather," she said. "Even if you fully cover your body, you will still feel hot."

At least 99 people died because of the heat in India earlier this week, including 54 people in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and another 45 people in neighboring Bihar state, reported Reuters.

Temperatures in some regions of the country were recorded at close to 45 degrees Celsius earlier this month. Previously, India also observed the hottest February in 122 years, according to The Times of India.

The situation is expected to get worse.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change listed India among the countries in which temperatures are hitting critical levels. It is estimated that heat waves will be 30 times more likely in the South Asian region in the near future.

Reasons for this phenomenon vary, ranging from climate change and reduced rainfall to human lifestyles.
"It was better during the past two years of the pandemic, when people stayed indoors because of the lockdown," Tuyet said.

"As people went back to riding their motorbikes outside, the heatwave became terrible again."

Both Nga and Tuyet agreed that this summer is even hotter than previous years, and the rainy season has been delayed. "It’s really burning hot," Tuyet said.

In the meantime, while waiting for the rain season to come, the Indian government has been employing various measures hoping to help its residents get by. These include suggesting that citizens should not leave their homes between 10 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m., and employing power cuts to ensure the national grid’s safety.

These measures have proved to pose certain challenges to people.

Tam, 30, of the eastern state of Bihar, told VnExpress that the power in her neighborhood will go off for five to ten minutes every one or two hours. She had to purchase a power generator to be able to work during power cuts.

"I have to calculate when to use the power generator," she said. "Using it to run the wifi router is fine, but other devices that require more power to operate like my fridge or my air-conditioner cannot be used with it."

Tam has also taken up the habit of drinking more water throughout the day, of which most is alkaline water, to avoid getting dehydrated.

As the temperature in India is expected to soar over the next few years, people have prepared themselves to get used to the situation.

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