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Friday, June 21, 2024

India’s heatwave turns deadly

Over 60 people have died of heat stroke across the country amid record-high temperatures

As temperatures in parts of northern India, including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar, have soared past 50C (120F), reports of fatalities have poured in. Over 60 people are believed to have died of heat stroke in the past several days, Indian media reported on Friday.

In Bihar state, at least 18 people have died of heat-related ailments within 48 hours, officials said on Friday, according to the Indian Express. This includes eight officials who were deployed for election duty. Polling in Bihar, one of the most populous states in the country, is being held during all seven phases of the election.

The government of Bihar has ordered the closure of all schools and coaching institutions until June 8 due to the severe temperatures.

As many as 41 people have died of suspected heat stroke in the last 24 hours in Odisha – an eastern Indian state on the Bay of Bengal – the Hindustan Times reported, citing local medial officials. Odisha is witnessing its longest heatwave in nine years.

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In Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, two children have reportedly died of heat stroke, according to the Times of India. They were rushed to the hospital after falling ill, but were pronounced dead on arrival.

Earlier this week, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a red alert for Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat, warning of a ‘very high likelihood’ of heat illness and heat stroke across all age groups. On May 29, the Mungeshpur area of New Delhi reportedly recorded a temperature of 52.9C – the highest in the country’s history. However, the IMD later said the reading could be due to a fault in the sensors and was likely inaccurate. 

The high court in the state of Rajasthan urged the federal government on Thursday to declare the heat wave a national emergency. “We do not have a planet B to which we can move onto… If we do not take strict action now, we will lose the chance of seeing our future generation flourish forever,” the court reportedly said. 

Meanwhile, at least three high courts in the nation’s capital have permitted lawyers to discard the customary robes and coats for the summer, Reuters reported. While India’s Supreme Court and most high courts have air conditioning, many lower courts and consumer forums depend on fans and have poor ventilation, the report said.


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The heatwave is raging on amid the ongoing general election in the world’s most populous county. On Saturday, the seventh and final phase will be conducted in 57 constituencies across eight states. According to reports, paramedics will be deployed to polling stations on Saturday to provide first if necessary. 

Earlier, the country’s independent election body set up a task force to review the impact of the heatwave and move the polling stations if needed. The heat has been cited as a potential cause for lower-than-usual turnout in the election.

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