A man rests under a tree in Mumbai on Tuesday. A major heat wave has swept across India, melting roads in Delhi and leaving more than 1,100 dead (AFP Photo/Indranil Mukherjee)
More than 1,100 people have died in an extreme heat wave sweeping India that shows little signs of dissipating, meteorologists said this week.
The soaring temperatures — which have reached 48 degrees in some areas — have particularly affected the elderly and children, while daily laborers, rickshaw pullers and construction workers have also struggled to cope.
Roads have melted in Delhi, where forecasters said they expected the high temperatures to continue into next week — adding to the misery of thousands living on the capital's streets with little shelter from the hot sun.
India’s meteorological department has predicted the heat wave will remain for at least the next few days in most parts of the country.
“It is not humanly possible to pull a rickshaw all day in this hot weather. I have no option but to take a break in the afternoon for two to three hours,” Dhani Ram, a rickshaw puller, told ucanews.com.
But the decision to seek shade has severely impacted his daily earnings, he said.
The heat has had a major impact on the nation’s poorest.
“The temperature does not go down much even at night. There are repeated electricity cuts which make the situation worse,” said Kiran Kumara, a domestic worker.
She said that her apartment is on the top floor and the roof is made of tin so it absorbs more heat and remains hot all day.
Hospitals are witnessing a surge in heat-related illnesses.
“Cases of fever, diarrhea and heat exhaustion are increasing in hospitals due to the extreme heat,” Shiv Kumar, chief medical officer of Rohtak district in Haryana state, told ucanews.com.
The health administrations in various districts have issued guidelines for people to prevent heat stroke.
“We are asking daily laborers and farmers to take a complete rest between 12pm — 2pm to prevent themselves from suffering in the extreme hot conditions,” Kumar said.
Pedestrians have been advised to use umbrellas and wear sunglasses to protect their eyes and skin, he said.
Brahma Prakash Yadav, director of Indian Meteorological Department, said top temperatures in the capital would remain around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) — the national benchmark for a heat wave.
"Maximum temperatures won't fall substantially. However, major relief can be expected from June 2 as there are indications of good showers," he said.
India's power industry has long struggled to meet rapidly rising demand in Asia's third largest economy, with poorly maintained transmission lines and overloaded grids.
The Hindustan Times warned that some of the hot, dry conditions could plunge the worst-affected states into drought before monsoon rains arrive.
The monsoon is forecast to hit the southern state of Kerala towards the end of this month before sweeping across the country, but it will be weeks before the rains reach the arid plains.
Additional reporting by AFP