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Northern India reels as temperatures clear 50 degrees Celsius

Citizens in north and western India have been reeling under scorching temperatures, with Phalodi in Rajasthan recording 51 degrees. The heat wave is expected to last for the next couple of days.

Officials at the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that Thursday's peak temperature was the highest on record. The previous high was 50.6 degrees Celsius (123 degrees Fahrenheit), recorded in 1956 in Alwar, also in India's desert state, Rajasthan.

The capital, New Delhi, experienced temperatures of over 47 degrees Celsius in recent days. Demand for electricity surged in the city, which is home to around 25 million people. Hospitals in the capital also recorded several cases of heatstroke and schools announced the summer break earlier than normal.

Indien Dürre Dorfbewohner an einem Brunnen in Gujarat

Villagers wait for water near a pipeline in Umarala, Gujarat

The IMD issued a heat wave alert for the next two days in the western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, and in Madhya Pradesh in central India. The high temperatures were expected to last for some time as officials said the monsoons would only hit the southwestern coast of Kerala on June 7. This meant that it could be weeks before the northern part of the country would get some relief from the heat.

The heat wave comes as India suffers its worst drought in decades, affecting around 330 million people. Drinking water is running short in many areas and poor rains have prompted the central government to send water trains to regions affected by drought. Hundreds of people have died and crops have been destroyed in several states.

Dry conditions in the country's hilly areas have also led to massive forest fires, especially in the Himalayan states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Meanwhile, other regions have been experiencing severe rainfall as Cyclone Roanu approaches the India's eastern coast. Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, and several states in eastern India are experiencing flood-like situations.

mg/msh (AP, AFP)