New Delhi: More than 1,600 people died due to extreme weather conditions across the country last year, with severe heat wave claiming the largest chunk of the total deaths at 40%, followed by flooding and lightning.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said 2016 was the warmest year ever recorded, globally as well as in India. Phalodi in Rajasthan recorded 51 degrees Celsius, highest ever recorded in the country. January and February were the warmest winter months ever, according to IMD, which records weather patterns since 1901.

Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra topped the casualty list with the states contributing 35% of the total. They together recorded 552 deaths due to extreme weather patterns.

According to a report by IMD, 40% of the total deaths were due to severe heat wave, which claimed more than 700 lives in the country, with Telangana and Andhra Pradesh together recording the maximum deaths i.e more than 400.

ALSO READ: Bihar boat tragedy: Death toll touches 26, more dead feared

Gujarat and Maharashtra registered 87 and 43 deaths due to heat waves respectively. Cold wave claimed 53 lives in the country. Lightning claimed more than 415 lives and the worst hit were the eastern states of Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Odisha alone recorded more than 132 deaths due to lightning while 43 deaths occurred in Maharashtra. IMD last year started issuing summer and winter forecasts with heat wave and cold wave warnings. After two consecutive droughts, India last year had a normal monsoon, but several parts of the country witnessed heavy to very heavy rainfall, causing flooding in many areas.

More than 475 lives were lost in floods and thunderstorms. Bihar alone saw nearly 146 deaths due to flooding between 25 July to 3 September. 2016 saw four cyclonic storms in Bay of Bengal, the major being severe cyclonic storm Vardah, which killed 18 people in Tamil Nadu.

“We have tried to minimise the loss of lives, especially in large scale events like cyclones and heavy rains. For example, accurate predictions helped minimise loss of lives during Vardah and prediction of heavy rains.

“But when it comes to events like lightning, it becomes difficult as at several instances it takes places in villages and hamlets. In such a scenario, mobile companies can play a pro-active role in helping disseminate information in a particular district or hamlet by sending alerts," IMD director general K.J. Ramesh said.