NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s western state of Maharashtra has reported 25 deaths from heat stroke since late March, the highest number in five years, with more deaths likely elsewhere in one country. with temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.
Scientists have linked the early onset of an intense summer to climate change and say that more than 1 billion people in India and neighboring Pakistan are somehow vulnerable to extreme heat.
With monsoon rains expected just next month and power outages increasingly frequent in some parts of India, even families who can afford air conditioners will have little respite in the coming weeks.
Many of the deaths in Maharashtra took place in the more rural areas of India’s wealthiest state.
“These are suspicious deaths from heat stroke,” Pradeep Awate, a health official in Maharashtra, told Reuters.
India is the world’s second-biggest wheat producer, but heat is expected to reduce this year’s crop after five straight years of record harvests.
As demand for energy rises, generating companies are facing a shortage of coal, and the government is begging them to step up imports.
India recorded its warmest March in over a century, with the maximum temperature across the country rising to 33.1 degrees Celsius, nearly 1.86 degrees above normal, according to the Indian Meteorological Department. Many parts of northern, western and eastern India have seen temperatures above 40°C in the past month.
In the eastern state of Odisha, officials said a 64-year-old man died of heat stroke on April 25 and hundreds of others received medical treatment.
In Subarnapur, the hottest district in Odisha, a high of 43.2 degrees Celsius was recorded on Tuesday.
“It’s very hot,” said Mohana Mahakur, who lives in Subarnapur. “Fan, air cooler – nothing is working.”
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal in New Delhi and Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar)