India heat wave kills at least 33, including election officials

By Reuters   May 31, 2024 | 04:17 pm PT
At least 33 people, including election officials on duty, died of suspected heatstroke in India's states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha on Friday, and the heat wave in the region is expected to continue until Saturday, authorities said.
A man drinks a cooling drink offered by locals on a hot summer day during a heatwave inNarela, New Delhi, India, May 29, 2024. Photo by Reuters

A man drinks a cooling drink offered by locals on a hot summer day during a heat wave inNarela, New Delhi, India, May 29, 2024. Photo by Reuters

India has been experiencing a blisteringly hot summer and a part of capital Delhi recorded the country's highest ever temperature at 52.9 degrees Celsius (127.22 F) this week, though that may be revised with the weather department checking the sensors of the weather station that registered the reading.

While temperatures in northwestern and central India are expected to fall in the coming days, the prevailing heatwave over east India is likely to continue for two days, said the India Meteorological Department (IMD), which declares a heatwave when the temperature is 4.5 C to 6.4 C higher than normal.

Fourteen people died in Bihar on Thursday, officials said, including 10 people involved in organizing the seven-phase national elections that are currently underway. Many election officials are usually required to stand on duty all day, many times outdoors.

Parts of Bihar are voting in the final round of polling on Saturday.

In India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, at least nine election personnel, including security persons, died on Friday, government officials said.

"They had high grade fever when they were brought in. It could be because of heatstroke as well. We are currently treating at least 23 people brought in from election duty," R B Kamal, principal of the medical college where the personnel are being treated, told reporters.

The world's largest election and its grueling campaign have been hit by record temperatures in the summer. The last phase of voting is scheduled to be held on Saturday and votes will be counted on Tuesday.

Ten deaths were also reported in the government hospital in Odisha's Rourkela region on Thursday, authorities told Reuters, prompting the Odisha government to advise against outdoor activities between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time when temperatures peak.

Three people died of suspected heatstroke in Jharkhand state, neighboring Bihar, local media reported.

In Delhi, where high temperatures have been causing birds and wild monkeys to faint or fall sick, the city zoo is relying on pools and sprinklers to bring relief to its 1,200 occupants.

"We have shifted to a summer management diet, which includes a more liquid diet as well as all the seasonal fruits and vegetables which contain more water," Sanjeet Kumar, director of the zoo, told news agency ANI.

Delhi, where the temperature was 45.4 C on Friday afternoon, recorded its first heat-related death this week and is facing an acute water shortage.

Billions of people across Asia have been grappling with soaring temperatures- a trend scientists say has been worsened by human-driven climate change.

India's neighbor Pakistan has also seen a spike in forest fires as temperatures soar, going as high as 52.2 C last week.

India is the world's third-biggest greenhouse gas emitter but has set a target of becoming a net-zero emitter by 2070.

While heat is affecting some of the country, the northeastern states of Manipur and Assam have been battered by heavy rainfall after Cyclone Remal, with several areas inundated on Friday.

Monsoon rains also hit the coast of the country's southernmost Kerala state on Thursday, two days earlier than expected.

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