North India continued to sizzle under an intense heatwave on Thursday with the scorching summer sun claiming two lives in Agra. The temperature in Delhi touched 44.7ºCelcius, sending Delhiites scurrying for the comfort of their airconditioned rooms and cooling drinks.
A man applies water to his face to cool himself on a hot summer afternoon in New Delhi. (AP Photo)
And it's just going to get worse in the coming days. The blistering sun made Thursday the hottest day of the season so far in Delhi. At Palam station - where the temperature is always several notches above the rest of the city - the mercury touched an 11-year record of 46.6ºC. Before this, the highest temperature recorded here was 47.1ºC in 2003.
Friday will be worse with Delhi's maximum temperature expected to touch 45ºC and stay at that level for the next four days at least, the weatherman said.
Adding to the soaring temperature were frequent power cuts and water shortage in several cities. The maximum temperature was four degrees above normal in Delhi, the weather department said.
This year, there is a high probability of delayed rains. The monsoon had still not made landfall in Kerala - its first point of contact - on Thursday. PTI quoted Indian Meteorological Department director general LS Rathore as saying there was some rain in the state, which the Met was treating as pre-monsoon showers.
The rains normally reach the southern state on June 1 but the Met had recently predicted it would be delayed by four days.
Senior Met officials in Delhi ruled out any chance of rain in the coming week but said people should expect a few dust storms. These, however, will not bring down temperatures. "The coming week will see high temperatures as no western disturbances are expected to bring rain to the city. An early monsoon is also ruled out," one official said.
With the mercury surging to 47° Celsius, Rajasthan would maintain its position of being the hottest in India, according to Skymet.
In Agra, two people succumbed to the prevailing heatwave. A 60-year-old man died of heatstroke in Ghatiz Azam Khan area, while another man died in Jagdishpura on Wednesday, officials said.
The maximum temperature in Agra was recorded at 45.1° Celsius, the weather office in Lucknow said. The city also reeled under severe power cuts and an acute water crisis.
The situation was not much different in the capital Lucknow. Battling intermittent power cuts, residents took to the streets to vent their ire. A junior engineer of Utretia power station was also held hostage in Lucknow for a brief period. The highest temperature in the state was reported from Allahabad, which recorded around 46.1° Celsius.
The hill state of Uttarakhand also battled a severe heatwave with the mercury hovering around 40° Celsius. State capital Dehradun reported a maximum of 38° Celsius and the temperature is expected to rise in the days to come.
However, thanks to the heatwave, the hills of Nainital and Mussoorie saw a surge in tourists.
Heatwave conditions prevailed in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
Punjab and Haryana too were under the grip of a scorching summer. Chandigarh recorded 41.9° Celsius on Thursday and the temperature was expected to go up to 44° Celsius on Friday.
At the rate the summer is going, Delhi's record of the highest temperature ever recorded - 47.2ºC in 1944 at Safdarjung station, which is taken as the official station for the entire city - may well be within reach. The last time the city came close to this level was in 2012, when the maximum touched 45.4ºC Celsius - which was also the highest in the last 10 years.