Eight More Deaths Reported as India Endures Longest Heatwave

A severe heatwave continues to wreak havoc in India, with the eastern state of Odisha reporting eight deaths within a 72-hour period.

Official figures released in May indicated that 60 people died between March and May across India due to heat-related illnesses. However, the actual number is likely much higher as heat-related deaths often go under-reported in rural areas.

Officials say India is experiencing its longest heatwave ever, with temperatures recently surpassing 50°C in some regions. “This has been the longest spell because it has been experienced for about 24 days in different parts of the country,” Mrutyunjay Mohapatra of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) told the Indian Express newspaper.

Parts of northern India have been enduring extreme heat since mid-May, with temperatures ranging between 45-50°C in several cities. Some areas are also facing water shortages, exacerbated by the intense heat.

Earlier this month, at least 18 polling officials deployed for the final phase of the general elections died of heat-related illnesses in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states. On 31 May, at least 33 people, including election officials, died of suspected heatstroke in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Odisha.

The monsoon, which reached India’s southern coast in Kerala state on 30 May, is expected to bring some relief as it spreads to northern parts of the country in the coming days. The IMD has predicted an above-average monsoon season for the country this year.

However, Mr. Mohapatra warned that “heatwaves will be more frequent, durable, and intense if precautionary or preventive measures are not taken.” The weather office has forecasted heatwave conditions for northwest and eastern India for the next five days.

India, the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, relies heavily on coal for its power needs. “Human activities, increasing population, industrialization, and transport mechanisms are leading to increased concentrations of carbon monoxide, methane, and chlorocarbons,” Mr. Mohapatra said. “We are endangering not only ourselves but also our future generations.”

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