No respite from heat in sight any time soon
Temperatures soared in northern and north-western India as an unrelenting heatwave continued across the region, even as a 45-year-old farmer died from heatstroke in Rajasthan on Sunday. In the national capital, even though the maximum temperature dropped slightly from the season’s highest on Friday, a spike in humidity ensured that the city’s residents received no relief from the scorching heat.
The day temperature in Delhi dropped from a high of 44.8 degrees Celsius on Friday (the highest in the season so far) to 42.5 degrees Celsius on Sunday, two notches above normal or “near-heatwave” conditions, India Meteorological Department (IMD) officials said.
The IMD has forecast that the maximum temperature at Safdarjung, which is taken to be a representative of Delhi’s weather, would remain around 42-43 degrees Celsius till June 7. Even though there will likely be a brief fall in temperature, from June 8 it would again shoot up to 44 degrees Celsius or more resulting in a heatwave, IMD officials said.
Meanwhile, 10 places in India figured on the list of 15 hottest places in the world in the last 24 hours, according to El Dorado Weather website on Sunday.
The other five spots in the top 15 were from neighbouring Pakistan, which meant that the region remained the hottest on the planet.
The thermometer on Sunday topped out at 48.9 degrees Celsius in Churu, Rajasthan, the highest in the country, IMD officials said. Rajasthan is the worst-hit region as the maximum temperature crossed 47 degrees Celsius in several cities in the state. Local officials on Sunday said that a 45-year-old farmer, Hanuman Jat, died of sunstroke in Necchwa in Rajasthan’s Sikar district.
Even in Himachal Pradesh, where many go to escape the summer heat, temperatures reached 44.9 degrees Celsius in Una.
IMD scientists said that the maximum temperature dropped in Delhi as moisture-laden easterly winds are gushing in. “A trough of low pressure has formed across Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. As a result, moisture laden easterly winds are coming in. It is because of the increase in moisture levels in the air that the mercury has gone down by two degrees,” said an IMD official.
“Even though the mercury has dropped over the past 72 hours, the relative humidity has gone up. This has forced the heat index to shoot up in Delhi. This is why citizens are not being able to feel the respite,” said the official.
While the minimum relative humidity was around 20% on Friday when Delhi recorded 44.8 degrees Celsius, on Sunday the minimum relative humidity was recorded at 30%.
Heat index, often referred to as the “apparent temperature”, determines how hot you actually feel when relative humidity is factored with the actual air temperature. It is a measure of the stress of the heat on humans.
The easterly winds would vanish once the low pressure trough fades. Once again the hot and dry north westerly winds would start blowing. They would bring in the heat from Pakistan and the desert area of Rajasthan. “Once the north-westerly winds start blowing again, the temperature is expected to hit 44 degrees Celsius. This is expected around June 8,” said the official.
Hospitals across Delhi have seen an increase in patients coming in with heat-related rashes, cramps, exhaustion and sometimes heatstroke, officials said.
“We see around 300 patients in the medicine out-patient clinics every day at Safdarjung; 25 to 30 of them are coming in with heat related illnesses. Most of them come in with fever, cramps, and vomiting and can be treated at the clinic. But some require hospitalisation to recuperate,” said Dr BK Tripathi, head of the department of medicine, Safdarjung Hospital.
IMD officials said severe heat could stay for up to a week across Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
A red alert severe heat warning was issued in the National Capital Region (NCR) on Friday and residents were advised not to go out during the hottest hours of the day.
Large parts of the country witnessed severe heatwave over the last week with temperatures even reaching 50 degrees Celsius in Rajasthan. If the temperature rises between 4.5-6.4 degrees Celsius above the normal, it is also termed heatwave. If it goes beyond that, it is classified as severe heatwave.
Meanwhile, several major cities, led by Chennai, have reported water shortage as lakes and rivers have started to dry up. In Maharashtra, farmers struggled to find water for thirsty animals and crops.
“We have to source water tankers from nearby villages as water reserves, lakes and rivers have dried up,” Rajesh Chandrakant, a resident of Beed, one of the worst-hit districts, told news agency AFP.
“Farmers only get water every three days for their livestock.”
Raghunath Tonde, a farmer with a family of seven, said the area has suffered worsening shortages for five years. “There is no drinking water available for days on end and we get one tanker every three days for the entire village,” Tonde told AFP.
“We are scared for our lives and livelihood,” he added.
Hindustan Times had reported many Beed residents had stopped washing and cleaning clothes due to the water shortage.
More than 40% of the country faces drought this year, experts from Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, had warned last month.
The monsoon is running a week behind schedule and is only expected to hit India’s southern tip on June 6, the weather department had said.