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India heat wave: Delhi posts national record temperature

May 29, 2024

A new Indian heat record was recorded on Wednesday as temperatures in the capital, Delhi, passed 52 degrees Celsius. A prolonged heatwave in northern India and Pakistan has caused water shortages and heat strokes.

People seen covering head and face with cloth to protect from heat wave on a hot summer day at Government Girls College sector-14, on May 26 in Gurugram, India.
Temperatures in Delhi nearly hit a record 50 degrees CelsiusImage: Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times/Sipa USA/picture alliance

Temperatures in India's capital city Delhi soared to 52.3 degrees Celsius (126.1 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, setting a new national record amid an ongoing heatwave.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) warned of "severe heat-wave conditions" after recording the record temperature in the Delhi suburb of Mungeshpur on Wednesday afternoon.

Issuing a red alert for several parts of northwest India, authorities said the temperatures were over nine degrees higher than expected – but said they were double-checking the Mungeshpur reading to determine its accuracy.

If found to be accurate, the temperature will not only have surpassed 50°C for the first time in Delhi since records began, but will also have smashed the previous national record of 51°C – recorded in Phalodi, a desert region in the arid western state of Rajasthan, in 2016 – by over one degree.

In May 2022, parts of Delhi hit 49.2 degrees Celsius, Indian media reported at the time.

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Heat wave alert issued in sweltering north

The IMD has issued a red alert health notice for Delhi, the sprawling megacity with an estimated population of more than 30 million people, warning of a "very high likelihood of heat illness and heat stroke in all ages" and urging "extreme care for vulnerable people."

People across northern India have been struggling with unrelenting heat which has forced schools to close down in some cities and towns.

Hospitals have also seen a spike in heat strokes, especially amid laborers working outdoors.

The heatwave has also coincided with a six-week-long general election in India which will conclude on June 1.

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Authorities warn of water and power shortages

In Delhi, the electricity grid groaned under record power demands of 8,302 megawatts, according to official data, while municipal authorities also warned official departments and residents to preserve water to avoid shortages.

The local government's Water Minister Atishi Marlena called for "collective responsibility" in avoiding wasteful water use. 

Residents and children fill water from a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) water tanker at NH-24 near Trilok Puri on May 27, 2024 in New Delhi
Delhi authorities have cut water supplies to some areas due to shortagesImage: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times/Sipa USA/picture alliance

"I appeal to all the residents that whether there is a water problem in your area or not, please use water very carefully," Atishi said on Tuesday.

The Indian Express newspaper meanwhile quoted her as saying: "To address the problem of water scarcity, we have taken a slew of measures such as reducing water supply from twice a day to once a day in many areas."

"The water thus saved will be rationed and supplied to the water-deficient areas where supply lasts only 15 to 20 minutes a day," Marlena said.

April, May and June are generally the hottest months in India with monsoons arriving over July. The hottest months are generally accompanied by water shortages and cuts which leave millions of people struggling. 

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mk, mf/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)