More than 100 people die due to heat wave in India

More than 100 people die due to heat wave in India

Nights have become increasingly hot in the Indian capital New Delhi for the past few days. North India is experiencing a scorching heat. Earlier this month, New Delhi recorded the highest temperature in the country at 49.9 degrees Celsius.

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The stifling heat persists despite the sunset. According to a report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which tracks urban heat stress in Delhi, the city cooled down by only 8.5 degrees Celsius at night, while it was 12.2 degrees Celsius in peripheral urban areas.

Hot nights deprive people of the comfort they deserve after a long day spent in extreme heat, especially those who do not have access to air conditioning. Scientists warn that hot nights are a consequence of the climate crisis, increasing health risks due to heat stress.

Studies show that higher nighttime temperatures make it more difficult to fall asleep and reduce deep and REM sleep phases, which are necessary for the body’s recovery during the night. For example, in the United States, nights are warming faster than days in most parts of the country, according to the 2018 National Climate Assessment.

According to a 2019 study, exposure to hot flashes during pregnancy may lead to adverse outcomes, such as premature birth. Older adults may experience higher heart rates and greater physical stress when sleeping in high temperatures. A 2008 Australian study found that deaths from mental and behavioral disorders increased during heatwaves, especially among older adults.

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Rising night temperatures are common in cities like Delhi due to the urban heat island effect, where metropolitan areas are significantly hotter than their surroundings. Areas with lots of asphalt and dense concrete buildings absorb more heat from the sun than areas with parks, rivers and tree-lined streets.

These hot days and nights challenge the limits of the country’s electrical grid and water supply, causing the population to fall ill. At least 40,000 cases of heatstroke have been reported in India since March, with at least 110 deaths due to suspected heatstroke, a health ministry official said.

Dr Ajay Chauhan, in-charge of the heatstroke treatment unit at Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital, highlighted that hot nights increase the stress on the body. “When a person suffers from heat stroke, the condition deteriorates rapidly. Without early intervention, the mortality rate is very high,” Chauhan said.

Chauhan said people who work outside during the day need time to cool down and recover, but acknowledged that “it is not possible.” At least 11 people have died from heat wave at his hospital since May 29, and more than 20 were admitted with heat-related illnesses last Thursday.

In the past five decades, India has experienced more than 700 heatwave events, causing over 17,000 deaths, according to a 2021 study published in the journal Weather and Climate Extremes. Delhi recorded the highest number of homeless deaths in the past five years during a nine-day period. According to a report by NGO Centre for Health Development India, between June 11 and 19, 192 heat wave-related deaths were recorded among the homeless population, a record compared to the same period in the past five years.

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About the author: Cory Weinberg

"Student. Subtly charming organizer. Certified music advocate. Writer. Lifelong troublemaker. Twitter lover."

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