South Asia

Heatwave deaths, hospitalizations expected to continue in India, analysts say

NEW DELHI — As an extreme heatwave continues to affect millions in India, public health experts warned on Thursday that heat-related hospitalizations and deaths could persist in the coming days, even if temperatures begin to decrease.

In Delhi, the temperature reached a record high of 52.9 degrees Celsius (127.2°F) in the Mungeshpur neighborhood on Wednesday, while parts of northwest and central India have been experiencing severe heatwave conditions for weeks.

“Especially the second and later days of extreme heat are additionally difficult because the human body doesn’t have time to recuperate as an extreme heat period extends,” said Amruta Nori-Sarma, an environmental health expert, speaking from Boston.

Delhi recorded its first heat-related death of the year, with a 40-year-old laborer succumbing to heatstroke on Wednesday, The Indian Express reported.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) attributed the rising temperatures to a confluence of weather patterns. While summer temperatures often peak in May, the IMD predicted 7-10 heatwave days in northwestern regions this month, compared with the usual 2-3 days.

This increase is largely due to fewer non-monsoon thundershowers and an active but weakening El Niño, a climate pattern that typically leads to hot and dry weather in Asia and heavier rains in parts of the Americas, according to the IMD. Warm, westerly winds blowing in from Pakistan also contributed to the heat.

Other parts of India have already seen record-high summer temperatures, including in eastern and southern regions, where April temperatures were among the highest on record.