India is suffering through its worst heat wave in a decade. The 118 degree F heat in India is so severe that some roads are beginning to soften and melt. Government authorities say the death toll in India’s heatwave has has likely surpassed 1,500 as most of the subcontinent swelters.
Southern India has seen the worst of the recent hot, dry weather. Officials are reporting that over 1,000 people have already died in the state of Andhra Pradesh this year, more than twice as many heat-related deaths as last year.
More on India heat wave
Of note, many victims of the heat are day laborers, who must work for money to eat and to support their families. If they don’t eat, their children will go hungry.
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The destitute and homeless populations throughout the country were also suffering badly. At a shelter in Delhi, scores of men tried clustered in the shade of a few trees. Some went into the streets to beg from the drivers waiting at nearby traffic lights. “If they give me anything I spend it on water at the moment not food,” said Deepak Ram Lal, 42.
The air-conditioned subway and shopping malls in Delhi have become havens from the heat for tens of thousands. Unfortunately, electric power is being cut off regularly in residential areas throughout the city as the electrical grid wavers under the demand from millions of overworked air conditioners.
According to residents of Gurgaon, a high-rise satellite city where many of Delhi’s working class live. they are seeing the power cut off for up to 10 hours a day. “Nothing is working – even after taking half a dozen baths a day, you can’t beat the heat,” complained shop owner Manish Singh. “It’s worse than previous years; we hardly get any electricity and the air conditioners become useless.”
Moreover, the heat has even led to melting roads in some areas, and was also resulting in significant problems with animal welfare both on farms and zoos. Brahma Prakash Yadav, the director of the Indian meteorological department, noted that although temperatures would above normal until the weekend, there was a good chance for some desperately needed cooling rain by early next week.
Water camps in Hyderabad
Authorities have also set up water camps all across Delhi to help residents stay cool.
The water camps are busiest around mid-afternoon, as the temperature hits the high for the day. On Wednesday this week, temperatures in Hyderabad hit a high of around around 107 F (42 C). Sunset does not produce a whole lot of relief, as the temperature only drops to around 30 C or 86 F.
Heatstroke awareness campaigns
Given the recent spike in deaths, local authorities throughout the country have launched heatstroke awareness campaigns. The educational outreach encourages people to stay indoors in the heat of the day, as well as advising them to wear broad-brimmed hats and light-colored cotton clothes, use umbrellas for shade and avoid dehydration at all costs.
Doctors point out that older people and poor are usually the most vulnerable, as they often live in slums or rural huts with no access to air conditioners or even trees for shade.