In less than a week, hundreds have succumbed to a heat wave in India, most especially in Andhra Pradesh, a southeastern state.
According to B.P. Yadav, India Meteorological Department director, the country recorded its highest temperate at 117 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday at Angul in the Odisha state. Overall, temperatures during the heat wave are about five degrees higher than what it normally would be for the season. Hot and dry conditions are worsened by winds coming in from the Sindh province in Pakistan blowing across the central and northern plains of India.
"This extreme, dry heat is being blown into India by westerly winds," explained Yadav.
Although forecasts bring rain, it will take weeks for monsoons to find their way to the northern portions of India once they hit the country's southeastern coastline sometime in one week. This means that high temperatures will remain high, dropping a bit in the next few days but rising back up soon enough as another hot spell hits India.
Many of the reported dead are the poor and the homeless, as well as construction workers who toiled under direct sunlight. Only around a third of the 1.2 billion people in India have electrical access so that leaves millions without relief from the heat wave.
But as demand for cooling systems increases, power in the country has dipped in and out, making the strain on the grid very evident. Those who can't cool themselves at home have mostly headed for shops and malls, seeking shelter elsewhere to beat the heat.
Heat waves are not rare in India but experts are saying current conditions should not be resulting in that many fatalities. One of the reasons the heat wave is turning out worse than it normally would is that a lot of the affected areas are humid. Add in excessive heat and stress levels spike dramatically. Unfortunately, studies are suggesting that heat waves in the future will be more frequent and more intense.
In Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister N Chandrabu Naidu has advised all ministers, TDP and MLA leaders and workers to set up kiosks and stations to provide people with chilled drinking water. Everyone has been advised as well to stay indoors as much as possible, most especially in the afternoon, unless it is an emergency.
No thanks to the high electrical demand brought on by the immense heat, some small sub-stations and transformers have either malfunctioned or caught on fire. To prevent further overheating, electricity department officials have placed air coolers around transformers.
Photo: Anthony Quintano | Flickr