Heatwave continues to grip north India; 40,000 cases of heatstroke, 100 casualties so far

A boy jumps into a waterbody to get relief from the scorching heat on a hot summer day, in New Delhi, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a 'red' alert because of prevailing heatwave conditions in the national capital. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Northern and eastern India continue to battle a relentless heatwave that has claimed over 100 lives and led to more than 40,000 suspected cases of heatstroke this summer, according to authorities.

Temperatures in parts of northern India have soared to nearly 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), marking one of the longest and hottest spells recorded in recent history. Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients suffering from heat-related illnesses, exacerbated by both daytime and nighttime temperatures reaching unprecedented highs since March.

The Health Ministry has issued urgent directives to federal and state hospitals to prioritize treatment for heatstroke victims. In Delhi, which is also grappling with a water shortage, hospitals have been instructed to increase bed capacity to accommodate the influx of patients.

"We have recorded over 40,000 suspected cases of heatstroke and confirmed at least 110 deaths from March 1 to June 18," reported a health ministry official, highlighting the severity of the ongoing crisis.

Adding to the woes, the heatwave has led to a surge in rescue calls for birds collapsing from the skies due to the extreme conditions, as noted by Kartick Satyanarayan of Wildlife SOS. Meanwhile, in the northeastern state of Assam, incessant rains triggered floods and landslides that claimed at least six lives. Among the tragic incidents was a landslide that buried a woman and her three daughters alive, underscoring the dual challenges faced by the country's diverse climate zones.

The heatwave's impact has been exacerbated by the delayed onset of the monsoon, prolonging the wait for relief across northern India. A western disturbance is expected to bring marginal respite, though the scorching conditions are predicted to persist, the India Meteorological Department said.

Experts attribute the severity of the heatwave to climate change and natural weather patterns, warning that such extreme weather events are becoming increasingly frequent and intense. As the nation grapples with these challenges, efforts are underway to mitigate the immediate health risks posed by the ongoing heatwave while preparing for potential monsoon-related emergencies in flood-prone regions.

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