New Delhi: A severe heat wave sweeping India, with temperatures of nerly 44 degrees Celsius, the highest in 52 years, has killed at least 80 people this month, officials said on Sunday.
The scorching weather, which officials say will continue over northern, north-western and central India in the next 48 hours, may also have an impact on wheat production, exporters and flour mill associations said.
Feeling the heat: The time wheat normally takes to ripen has been shortened and as a result the grain size could be smaller this year. AP
New Delhi recorded a maximum temperature of 43.7 degrees Celsius on Saturday, presaging a hot summer in the next two months in the nation’s capital and other parts of northern and eastern India. The highest temperature in the past 24 hours was 47 degrees Celsius at Ganganagar in Rajasthan.
Summer temperatures have been 4-6 degrees above normal over most parts of northern and central India since March, weather officials said.
In Orissa, authorities have decided to shut schools from next Tuesday, advancing the annual summer holiday. Authorities said they were investigating reports of 53 deaths from various parts of the state.
“District collectors have been asked to investigate and submit reports on other deaths,” Bhimsen Gochhayat, a government official, said.
Other deaths were reported from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
India is expected to produce around 82 million tonnes (mt) of wheat in 2009-10, but there could be a shortage of 1-1.5 mt due to the heat wave, said Veena Sharma, secretary general of the Roller Flour Millers Federation of India.
“Most of the harvesting is over, but there definitely will be a slight shortage of 1-1.5 mt due to the extreme weather conditions,” she told ‘Reuters’.
India is relying on a bumper wheat crop to make up for a 14.2% drop in rice output, the major summer-sown foodgrain, marred by the worst monsoon in 37 years last year.
“The time it (wheat) normally takes to get ripe has been shortened and as a result the size of the grain could be smaller with a marginal effect on production,” D.P. Singh, president of the All India Grain Exporters Association, said.
Weather officials say with summer temperatures in India set to remain above average, there were hopes of heavy rains at the start of the monsoon season that will help early sowing of rice, soya beans and lentils.
A senior weather official said he was expecting temperatures to come down a bit next week, bringing some relief in hilly areas, which could experience light rain.