Respite from heat likely from today

Even as India’s severe heat wave — that has already killed well over 1,400 people – became international news and top trending subject on Facebook on Wednesday, the weatherman had some good tidings as the weekend is likely to bring relief from the wilting conditions that have prevailed across large parts of North India, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha over the past week.

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana together accounted for 1,345 of the deaths. While the fatalities from these two States is the highest ever reported from the area, the mounting death toll due to heatstroke across the country could touch an all-time annual high as June has traditionally been the killer month for North India. The worst year in the recent past was 1995, when 1,677 people died of heat-related causes.

According to the All India Weather Warning Bulletin issued by the Indian Meteorological Department on Wednesday, only a few places in Odisha are left in the “red zone,” where severe heat wave conditions will prevail for two more days. Other areas including the plains of North-West India, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Vidarbha — which have been reeling under severe heat wave conditions — will see a temperature drop by about two degrees from Thursday onwards even as the monsoon set to advance on schedule.

Experts attribute the large number of deaths in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to a sudden rise in temperature. Temperature in most parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana till the second week of May was hovering around 39 degrees Celsius till it surged by three to four degrees. Though deaths by heatstroke were recorded even before, the toll began to rise drastically from May 21, when there was a two to three degree spurt in temperatures across the states.

Though there is no official all-India count for the number of deaths this year due to heatstroke, the death toll from the erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh has already crossed the 2013 figure of deaths nation-wide due to heat wave. In 2013, the latest year for which National Crime Records Bureau data for accidental deaths is available, 1200 people died of heatstroke.

Heat-related deaths

In all, nearly 20,000 people have died of the heat in India since 1990. The bulk of heat-related deaths are concentrated in five States. In 2012 and 2013, undivided Andhra Pradesh accounted for the largest number of deaths, while Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Bihar are the other epicentres. Those in the age group of 45-59 are most likely to die of heatstroke, while men account for over 80 per cent of all heat deaths. Only lightning kills more people from natural causes.

However official statistics could mask the real extent of the problem; a study of the 2010 heat wave in Ahmedabad suggested that 1,300 people died in the month of May that year in the western city alone. Official statistics for that year recorded only six deaths of heat in Ahmedabad.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 6:22:15 PM |

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