Photo Essay: The heat is on
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As temperatures in the country average 44-46 degrees Celsius, some relief is expected with the monsoon likely to hit Kerala today.
“There will be some reduction in the heat now, but western Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will continue to face heat,” says D.S. Pai, chief of the long-range forecasting division at the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
According to an IMD forecast for Saturday, rainfall can be expected in isolated places in the northern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, New Delhi and Uttarakhand. Some parts of Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, central Maharashtra, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh can also expect light showers.
Last week, heatwave to severe-heatwave conditions prevailed in many places across Odisha, Jharkhand, coastal Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Chandigarh, New Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha in Maharashtra. In Khammam in Telangana, it was 48 degrees; Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been the worst affected. At the time of going to press, the death toll from the heatwave in the country was more than 1,800, according to officials familiar with the development.
Meanwhile, the governments of Delhi and several states have advised hospitals, both private and government, to treat heat-stroke patients as emergency cases and make necessary arrangements for ensuring immediate medical treatment.
Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis-CDOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases, and Endocrinology, New Delhi, says: “The kind of heatwave we are facing can be harmful to the body. All of us face minor injuries like low sodium levels, loss of fluids if we are exposed to such heat for half an hour at a stretch.”
“More deadly is heat stroke when there is an elevation of the core body temperature manifested by 105 degrees Fahrenheit. These should not be treated at home and the patient should be immediately rushed to the hospital,” Dr Misra adds. According to him, the elderly and those with ailments and on medication are more vulnerable to heat strokes. He advises drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding long hours of exposure to heat.
Heatwaves usually start in the north-western parts of the country and then move towards the central and south-eastern states. According to a study by IMD scientists in 2000, casualties are more in the year succeeding an El Niño occurence. El Niño, a weather pattern resulting from the warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, is usually associated with drier-than-average conditions in India. This year, the prevailing El Niño is expected to continue through the monsoon season, threatening to affect the amount of rainfall in the country, according to IMD.
And if research by UK-based risk analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft is to be believed, then things are not going to get any better—India is at “extreme risk” and ranked 30th (of 198 countries) in its Heat Stress Index. According to the research, which was released on 28 May: “Over the course of a single generation, the entire nation will be exposed to much greater heat stress and risks, with subsequent public health and economic implications.”