Humans “boil in their own skin” at 48 degrees Celsius, the maximum temperature recorded at Khammam in Telangana which has become the focal point of a blistering heat wave sweeping through swathes of India on Sunday, killing nearly 500 people.
Allahabad was the second hottest at 47.7°C, six degrees above normal; Nandigama in Andhra Pradesh was a notch under as it sizzled at 47°C while Odisha’s Angul district tipped the scales at 46.7°C.
In comparison, the national capital felt cooler at 43.5°C on Sunday.
The Centre for Holistic Development, an NGO in Delhi, said the searing heat had claimed the lives of 186 people till Saturday, 80% of them homeless. Authorities in the Capital haven’t released any official death figure, though.
Officials in the twin states of Telangana and Andhra reported over 400 deaths from sunstrokes and heat-linked ailments. “We have recorded 246 deaths from Wednesday till Sunday. Prakasam and Visakhapatnam districts are the worst affected with 57 and 53 deaths respectively,” said Dhanunjaya Reddy, director, Andhra disaster management department.
The Telangana government has put the toll at 188 — from April 15 till Sunday — but most of the deaths were reported over the past few days because of unusually high temperatures.
Andhra chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu has advised people to take remedial measures when out in the sun. His government announced Rs 1 lakh to the families of heat wave victims.
“The conditions continuing since Wednesday is the result of a northwesterly dry wind blowing from Rajasthan and Gujarat and a surface trough running from Odisha to Tamil Nadu along the coast of Andhra. Cloudless skies allowing penetration of the sun rays which are absorbed by the land, adding to the heat,” said YK Reddy, director in-charge, meteorological centre, Hyderabad.
Many parts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka are also reeling under the summer scorcher. In Rajasthan, the mercury touched 46.5°C in Jaisalmer and Kota was close behind at 45.4°C.
In West Bengal, oppressive humidity couple with the heat killed a factory worker. Sheikh Rustam, 45, was working in an open area inside a steel factory in Burdwan when he complained of exhaustion and died at a nearby hospital.
In Odisha, authorities have received reports of 24 deaths as the mercury crossed the 45-degree mark at six places in the western districts. “Similar conditions will prevail across Odisha at least for the next five days,” warned SC Sahu, director of the weather office’s Bhubaneswar centre.
The sudden jump in day temperature was witnessed in all major cities in Uttar Pradesh and weather office said the mercury would continue to rise.
Medical experts said long exposure to extreme heat raises human body temperature to such levels that protein cells start to “boil like egg whites”, a case of internal combustion that eventually shuts down the brain.
Hospitals have been flooded with cases of heatstroke in Gurgaon and Delhi. “Prolonged sun exposure dehydrates the body and its ability to control heat. So, we advise people to be extra cautious in the summer months,” said Satish Koul, general physician at Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon.
Tummy upsets, headache, fever, rashes and skin allergies from sunburn are other less severe symptoms.
“Drink plenty of water, avoid the sun and never go out on an empty stomach,” reads the general advisory.
(With inputs from Bhubaneswar, Lucknow and Gurgaon)