An extreme heat wave in India has killed more than 1,100 people in less than one week as temperatures soar to 122 °F, literally melting the streets of New Delhi.
As ThinkProgress reports, 852 people have died in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, 266 in Telangana and 24 people have died in northeastern West Bengal and Orissa. Most of victims have been construction workers, the elderly and the homeless.
“Almost all the victims are old,” said B.R. Meena, principle secretary for revenue for Telangana. “Inquiries reveal that most of them were working and were exposed to the heat. Dehydration and heat stroke caused the deaths.”
The scorching heat wave is expected to continue until May 31 when the southwest monsoon hits the mainland.
The governments in India have done almost nothing to curtail the drastic heat wave's effects. The central government and National Disaster Management Authority have not implemented any preventive measures for the summer and have not instilled any plans to handle the large number of casualties. The union home ministry has not even declared the fatal heat wave a national disaster.
The most Andhra Pradesh, the worst affected state, has done is offer preventive advice to residents, basically saying drink water and don’t go outside.
“The state government has taken up education programmes through television and other media to tell people not to venture into the outside without a cap, to drink water and other measures,” P. Tulsi Rani, special commissioner for disaster management in Andhra Pradesh, said. “We have also requested NGOs and government organisations to open up drinking water camps so that water will be readily available for all the people in the towns.”
Yet Ahmedabad is the notable exception to all of this government inaction. Ahmedabad is the only city in India that has had an operational heat alert system in place since 2013 to help save lives and provide concrete action. The four-pronged Heat Action Plan contains a communications outreach program to help inform residents of the risks of heat illness and preventive measures to take, a warning system that specifies what actions government agencies must adopt when a heat wave strikes, better training for health care professionals and adapting the city’s plan to better cope with heat.
In the wake of a heat crisis, at least one city is doing something to combat the heat and prevent avoidable deaths.