An oppressive heatwave tore through north India with the small town of Phalodi in Rajasthan sweltering at 51°C on Thursday — the highest ever in the country since Alwar, also in the desert state, registered 50.6°C in 1956.
The state reeled under record-breaking temperatures as another traditional hot spot, Churu, made history with 50.2°C, which is a notch higher than its 1914 record of slightly less than 50.
In meteorological terms, where an increase in even decimal points is viewed very seriously, this increase was significant.
Bikaner broke its 102-year-old record of 49.4 degrees recorded on May 28, 1914. It was 49.5°C on Thursday. The fort city of Jaisalmer in the middle of the Thar sizzled at 49°C, upstaging an eight-year-old record.
Tourist destination Jodhpur too broke its record with 48.8°C. The previous highest was 47.4°C on May 29, 1994. But capital city Jaipur was slightly better with 46.5°C.
People in Rajasthan are used to high summer temperatures but this year has been unusually hot.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) warned that the heatwave will be at its severest in the next couple of days, raising the alert level to the highest “red”. This means the temperature will nudge 47°C in several cities, including New Delhi.
Ahmedabad in Gujarat shattered a century-old record as the maximum temperature touched 48°C. “Data say the city recorded 47.8°C on May 27, 1916,” senior Met official Jayanta Sarkar told PTI.
New Delhi too felt the pinch, recording 43°C with a harsh, hot and dry wind blowing through the day.
The IMD asked people to take precautions against the heatwave while doctors advised against outdoor activities between 11am and 4pm to avoid sunstrokes.
There are reports of people collapsing in the heat and of armed men guarding wells and ponds in Madhya Pradesh to stop farmers from stealing water.
There is no official statistics of aggregated heat-related deaths, but searing temperatures coupled with a drought is said to have killed hundreds this year, and left not enough food to eat or water to drink in parts of an area that holds about 25% of India’s 1.2 billion people.
The Bikaner district authorities in Rajasthan ordered sprinkling of water in select public places while a train carrying 2.5million litres of water was off to parched Bhilwara.
(With agency inputs)