Heat Wave Sears India, Kills at Least 36

Sean Breslin
Published: June 13, 2019
An Indian boy cools off on a water fall during a hot summer day at Basistha area in Guwahati on June 13, 2019.
(BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images)

While northwestern India endures heavy rain and gusty winds from Tropical Cyclone Vayu, millions of residents elsewhere in the country have dealt with weeks of blazing heat that has claimed dozens of lives.

With monsoon rains delayed, at least 36 deaths have been blamed on the intense heat, according to the New York Times. In recent days, temperatures have soared as high as 123 degrees in northern India, and long-term relief will not occur until the monsoon rains arrive.

"I have lived here all my life but have never felt this hot before," Churu resident and local journalist Hanuman Verma told the Washington Post. "It is horrid."

(MORE: Tropical Cyclone Vayu Forecast

In Churu – a town of about 120,000 located some 150 miles west of New Delhi in Rajasthan state – the 123.4 degree reading on June 1 was just shy of the country's all-time hottest temperature ever recorded, 123.8 degrees in Rajasthan just three years ago. But that's under dispute, according to Weather Underground climate blogger Bob Henson, because the country rounded the record temperature to the nearest half-degree Celsius.

Residents have done their best to fight the heat wave by hosing down the streets to cool them or staying inside altogether, but the 36 deaths surpass the combined number of heat wave fatalities for all of 2018, according to the Indian government.

As the heat wave persists, vacations for doctors in Churu were canceled, and schools were closed in Madhya Pradesh state in central India, the Times also said. In New Delhi, population 21 million, a record-high of 118.4 degrees was recorded on Monday; only a dust storm could provide some relief, dropping temperatures to about 100 degrees on Tuesday, the report added.

All across the country, it has become a deadly waiting game for the monsoon season to arrive and put an end to heat waves that have grown more intense over time; local climate experts say it's partially due to the effects of climate change. National Disaster Management Authority spokesman Anup Kumar Srivastava told the Times that the number of Indian states impacted by heat waves grew from nine to 19 from 2015 to 2018, and that trend is expected to continue this year.

And when the monsoon rains finally arrive, they're expected to be subpar, according to virtually every long-range forecast issued – bad news for the farmers who have waited through the dry, searing spring in hopes of much-needed precipitation.

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