Most of the heat-wave victims were laborers and farmers in the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, though temperatures elsewhere in India also have hit 113 degrees.
Schools were closed last week in Odisha until at least April 26. Officials in Andhra Pradesh were giving out free water and buttermilk to help people stay hydrated. And people everywhere have been urged to stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day.
Y.K. Reddy, a meteorological official, said the temperatures were about eight to 10 degrees hotter than normal for April. “Normally, such high temperatures are recorded in the month of May,” he said.
Police have reported 55 heat-related deaths in Odisha and at least 45 in Andhra Pradesh. Sixty-six were reported in Telangana, though the state’s deputy chief minister, Mohammed Mahmood Ali, said the causes of death were still being verified.
Meanwhile, a 12-year-old girl in the drought-stricken western state of Maharashtra died from the heat while fetching water, Indian broadcaster NDTV said Wednesday.
Making matters worse, India is grappling with severe water shortages and drought affecting more than 300 million people — a quarter of the country’s population. Thousands of distressed farmers have committed suicide, tens of thousands of farm animals have died, and crops have perished, with rivers, lakes and ponds drying up and groundwater tables sinking.
Scrambling to deal with the crisis, officials have sent tankers of water to parched farming communities in Maharashtra, banned people from drilling deep wells and ordered farmers to shift away from growing water-guzzling sugarcane crops.
The heat wave in India coincides with record-high temperatures across the globe. In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday said March’s average global temperature of 54.9 degrees was not only the hottest recorded in March but continues a record 11-month-long streak that started in May.
For southern India, this is the second consecutive year marred by a deadly heat wave. Last year, about 2,500 people died in scorching temperatures before the monsoon rains began in the Indian subcontinent in early June.