Nearly 170 people have died in two of India’s most populous states in recent days amid a sweltering heat wave, said authoritiesd Monday, as hospitals are jampacked with patients and routine power outages add to the challenges.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, 119 people died from heat-related illnesses over the last several days while in neighbouring Bihar state 47 people have died, according to local news reports and health officials.
The largest hospital in Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh is unable to accommodate more patients, officials said, and its morgue was overwhelmed after 54 people died due to the heat. Some families were asked to take the bodies of their relatives home.
While northern regions of India are known for sweltering heat during the summer season, temperatures have been consistently above normal, according to the Indian Meteorological Department, with highs in recent days reaching 43.5 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit). A heat wave is declared in India if temperatures are at least 4.5 degrees Celsius above normal or if the temperature is above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit). “We have been issuing heat wave warnings for the past few days,” announced Atul Kumar Singh, a scientist at the IMD. Despite the warnings, government officials did not ask people to brace for the heat until Sunday, when the death toll began to increase. Adding to the heat stress are consistent power outages across the region, leaving people with no running water, fans or air conditioners.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the government has taken measures to ensure an uninterrupted power supply in the state. He urged citizens to cooperate with the government and use electricity judiciously.
“Every village and every city should receive adequate power supply during this scorching heat. If any faults occur, they should be promptly addressed,” he said Friday night in a statement.
Inside Ballia district hospital, the chaotic scenes were reminiscent of the coronavirus pandemic, with families and doctors scrambling even as many patients required urgent medical facility. The corridors smelled of urine, garbage and medical waste, and hospital walls were stained with betel leaf spit. “All our staff has been here for three days straight and are completely overworked,” said Dr. Aditya Singh, an emergency medical officer.