When will NPR start in India

Heat wave heralds a difficult summer

Longer-term weather forecasting is always a difficult matter. We also know that at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Nevertheless, the special organization of the United Nations issued a clear forecast this week: "Another record heat season in the northern hemisphere" can be expected this year. Even in the early months of the year, everything indicates that 2020 will be one of the hottest years since measurements began, said WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis Kapp in Geneva.

The warning was accompanied by an urgent appeal: Cities and municipalities now have to prepare to protect people - even if the coronavirus pandemic makes it more complicated. In other years, people in overheated apartments were advised to go to refrigerated shopping centers, for example. Neighbors were encouraged to visit solitary and potentially vulnerable people regularly. A lot of coronavirus advice now speaks against this, according to the WMO. In addition, hospitals may be less prepared for patients with heat stroke because they have to treat coronavirus patients.

Locusts plague India

Heat settled over the land

The combination of pandemic and heat was already felt in India this week. As if the coronavirus wasn't enough, the country struggled with scorching temperatures. In the capital New Delhi, temperatures rose to 47.6 degrees Celsius in the middle of the week. According to the national weather authority, the metropolis thus recorded the hottest May day in 18 years. In the desert state of Rajasthan, the thermometer even showed 50 degrees Celsius. Then there was the worst plague of locusts in decades.

The heat wave was also triggered by the cyclone "Amphan". In mid-May, the tremendous storm low hit the - unusually warm - Bay of Bengal. The storm literally sucked moist air from large parts of the subcontinent. What remained were dry, hot winds - and temperatures well above 40 degrees Celsius.

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The extreme temperatures reached India at a time when public life was gradually getting back on its feet after weeks of severe restrictions. At the beginning of May, the strict curfew was partially relaxed. The government had promised further relief for the end of May. But the high temperatures threaten to exacerbate the challenges of containing the virus.

Warning of many heat deaths

Doctors have already warned that the heat could claim more lives than the pandemic. "If we look at the mortality rates in the past, more people will die in the heat wave than from the coronavirus," said Dileep Mavalankar, director of the Indian Institute for Public Health in Gandhinagar, to the British Telegraph.

Malavankar said the majority of heat-related deaths in India had gone undetected in the past. Because only around a quarter of all deaths in the country are also medically confirmed, according to the doctor. According to official figures, around 3,500 people have died in heat waves in India over the past five years.

Dangerous exceptional situation

In connection with the current extreme temperatures, India has not yet reported any fatalities. But for many people in the current situation the danger is even greater than usual. First and foremost, this applies to many of the millions of migrant workers who made their way home after the exit restrictions began at the end of March. A large number tried to cover the hundreds of kilometers on foot - without accommodation and often without water. The government used special trains and buses to bring people home. However, many of them are still on the move or stranded halfway.

Parts of India also suffer from chronic water scarcity, and millions of people have no access to running water. In New Delhi and other cities, scuffle regularly occurs when tank trucks deliver fresh drinking water. Also in India very few have air conditioning. However, due to the pandemic, the hot and stuffy apartments should only be vacated in exceptional cases. That could mean that even more people would suffer from heat stroke, said Mavalankar.

Overstrained hospitals

In addition, India's hospitals are already being challenged - sometimes overwhelmed - with the treatment of Covid 19 patients. Fears may not have the capacity to care for people with acute cardiovascular problems or other diseases caused by the heat.

"This year the health systems after Covid-19 are worse prepared for heat stroke and other seasonal problems than in other years," said Yogesh Jain according to "Telegrahph". The expert on public health in rural areas expects more deaths due to heat-related illnesses - "than collateral damage from Covid-19". The heat in India could continue into June. The hottest months in the country are usually April, May and June. After that, the monsoons bring lower temperatures.