India's Delhi sees first heat-related death this year as capital sizzles

Rajasthan state experiences scorching heat, with temperatures touching 50°C in some districts

REUTERS May 30, 2024


India's capital, Delhi, has recorded its first heat-related death this year, media reported on Thursday, as India's northwest swelters in record high temperatures.

The heat-related fatality was a 40-year-old laborer who died of heatstroke on Wednesday, The Indian Express newspaper reported.

Record Delhi heat, reading under review

The temperature in Delhi reached a record high of 52.9 degrees Celsius (127.22°F) in the Mungeshpur neighborhood on Wednesday, while parts of northwest and central India have been experiencing heat wave to severe heat wave conditions for weeks.

The reading for Mungeshpur may be revised however, as maximum temperatures in other parts of the city ranged from 45.2°C to 49.1°C.

Delhi's lieutenant governor on Wednesday asked the government to ensure measures were taken to protect laborers by providing water and shaded areas at construction sites and granting them paid leave from noon to 3 p.m.

Why is India seeing more heat waves?

The India Meteorological Department has said a confluence of weather patterns has driven up temperatures.

Summer temperatures often peak during May in India, but the IMD predicted 7-10 heat wave days in northwestern regions this month, compared with the usual 2-3 days.

This was largely due to fewer non-monsoon thundershowers and an active but weakening El Nino, a climate pattern that typically leads to hot and dry weather in Asia and heavier rains in parts of the Americas, the IMD has said.

Warm, westerly winds blowing in from Pakistan also contributed to the heat.

Other parts of India have already seen summer temperatures climbing to record peaks, including eastern and southern India, where temperatures in April were among the highest on record.

Extreme heat

A heat wave alert has been in place for large parts of India since last week.

The IMD threshold for a heat wave is when the maximum temperature reaches 40°C in the plains, 30°C in hilly areas, 37°C in coastal areas, and when the departure from the normal maximum temperatures is at least 4.5 degrees.

Rajasthan state has also been reeling under scorching heat, with the mercury touching 50°C in some districts. Government data shows four people have died since March with 451 cases of heat stroke reported on Wednesday itself.

Asia has sweltered in a hotter summer this year - a trend scientists say has been worsened by human-driven climate change.

Near term relief

Heatwave conditions will reduce over the next two to three days due to a gradual fall in temperature along with rainfall and southwesterly winds blowing from the Arabian Sea to northwest India, the IMD said on Wednesday.

Late on Wednesday, some parts of Delhi received a spot of light rain.


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