What it’s like to toil in India’s dangerous, unrelenting heat
The government on Sunday issued more severe heat advisories for some northeastern regions and said the blazing conditions would extend into Tuesday. There is a “very high likelihood of developing heat illness and heat stroke in all ages,” the Meteorological Department said.
In two states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, at least 98 people died between Thursday and Saturday because of the heat, the India Today magazine reported, citing a local official. The Associated Press also reported the deaths of 42 people in Bihar state over the past two days, and another 54 deaths in neighboring Uttar Pradesh, citing local officials.
India has suffered successive heat waves in recent months, including in May, when similar temperatures scorched the capital, New Delhi. Last year, spring temperatures broke monthly heat records, a pattern scientists say has worsened because of climate change. Asia more broadly also just experienced its hottest April on record, according to some metrics.
India tries to adapt to extreme heat but is paying a heavy price
About half of India’s workforce labors outdoors, exacerbating the effects of the heat. Experts say that some places in India may simply become too hot for people to work outside if the world does not drastically reduce emissions that are warming the planet.
In Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia district, more than 400 people were brought to a single hospital, where staff increased the number of fans and portable air conditioners, according to the facility’s chief medical superintendent, Diwakar Singh, who spoke to reporters.
The majority of patients’ symptoms included fever, breathlessness, heart attack, stroke and diarrhea, the AP and India Today reported. Those who died had already suffered from preexisting health conditions, Ballia’s chief medical officer, Jayant Kumar, told the AP. The outlet reported that most of the dead were over age 60.
But some local officials in Ballia, including District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar, tried to deny that the deaths were linked to the heat. On Sunday, he said there was “no solid evidence” tying the surge in deaths to the higher temperatures, the daily Indian Express newspaper reported.
The Uttar Pradesh state government announced that it was sending a team of experts to investigate and removed Singh, the chief medical superintendent, from his position.