An unrelenting heat wave has killed more than 1,100 people across the country over a fortnight with southern neighbours Andhra Pradesh and Telangana bearing the brunt, as torrid temperatures melted roads in the national capital and have forced people indoors.
Authorities said on Tuesday most of the victims were construction workers, the elderly or the homeless, as the weather office predicted the mercury will continue to soar this week with substantial relief expected only when the southwest monsoon hits the Indian mainland around May 31.
The death toll due to severe heat wave sweeping Andhra Pradesh has risen to 852 with the scorching weather claiming 202 lives in Prakasam district alone, officials said.
At least 266 deaths have been reported in Telangana where a maximum temperature of 44.5°C was recorded in Ramagundam city. Jangameswarapuram in Andhra was two notches higher at 46.4°C, though the absence of power cuts came as huge relief for residents of the two states who chose not to venture outside during the hottest part of the day.
The meteorological department issued “red box” warnings for Odisha, Jharkhand and coastal Andhra Pradesh, signalling high chances of heatstroke, dehydration and fatality with temperatures inching upwards of 45°C and conditions worsened by constant dry, sweltering winds.
A sizzling sun baked large parts of Punjab and Haryana as maximum temperatures settled at a few notches above normal in most areas. Karnal in Haryana recorded 44°C, four degrees above normal, while searing heat swept Ludhiana in Punjab at 42.6°C.
As if the sweltering conditions were not enough, stifling humidity levels compounded the problem for people in Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow, as the city recorded a maximum temperature of 43.5°C with relative humidity at 70%. Agra was the hottest part of the state with the mercury hitting 46.1°C.
The heat wave was mainly triggered by an abrupt end to pre-monsoon showers and missing storms. A brewing cyclonic weather pattern in the Arabian Sea two weeks ago lost steam quickly, while depressions, or rain-causing systems, in the Bay of Bengal headed off towards the northwest states which are getting plentiful rains.