A major heatwave that sent temperatures near 50°C has killed over 1,000 people in India in just less than a week’s time. The area with the most number of victims was the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh – at 852 people. Next was the neighboring state of Telangana at 266 people.
Local officials strongly urged people to stay indoors as the scorching heat is expected to continue in the next few days. Hospitals were all on alert to accept and treat victims of heatstroke. Temperatures were so high that even the pedestrian stripes painted on the streets have melted.
— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) May 26, 2015
On Monday, India recorded its highest maximum temperature of 47°C (117 degrees Fahrenheit) at Angul in Odisha state, B.P. Yadav, director of the India Meteorological Department, said. The figure could go higher in the next days. The agency warned it is expecting another hot spell in the coming weeks.
Most of the dead are believed to come from India’s poorest sector, including beggars, the homeless and even construction workers because of their exposure to direct sunlight in their building sites. Taxi drivers aren’t spared.
“The state government has taken up education [programs] through television and other media to tell people not to venture into the outside without a cap, to drink water and other measures,” P Tulsi Rani, special commissioner for disaster management in Andhra Pradesh, according to the AFP. “”We have also requested NGOs and government [organizations] to open up drinking water camps so that water will be readily available for all the people in the towns.”
Andhra Pradesh’s Disaster Management Department reportedly has released an advisory telling people not to go to work between 10 a.m. to 4p.m., according to Skynews. A report by CNN says many people go to the shops and malls to cool off.
India has about 1.2 billion people. Only about one-third have access to electricity. Still, power supply has become erratic because the system has faced extreme pressure from the extra demand that will enable fans and air conditioning to run.