Saturday , July 13 2024

India braces for more heatwaves amid elections


Bureau Report + Agencies

NEW DELHI/ KERALA: As India’s northwest braces for more heatwave days this summer, capital Delhi has ordered the closure of all schools as temperatures surge as high as 47 degrees Celsius ahead of voting in the final two phases of national elections.

The India Meteorological Department said a confluence of weather patterns was driving up temperatures in the breadbasket region.

Summer temperatures often peak during May in India, but IMD scientist Soma Sen Roy said the department was predicting 7-10 heatwave days in northwestern regions this month, compared to the usual 2-3 days.

This was largely due to fewer non-monsoon thundershowers and an active but weakening El Nino, she said, referring to a climate pattern that typically leads to hot and dry weather in Asia and heavier rains in parts of the Americas.

Warm, westerly winds blowing in from Pakistan also contributed to the heat, she said.

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

The weather department also declared a rare heatwave in the southwestern coastal state of Kerala last month.

On Sunday, Najafgarh area in southwest Delhi recorded a maximum temperature of 47.8 degrees Celsius (118.04°F), the highest this summer.

The IMD threshold for a heatwave is when the maximum temperature reaches 40C in the plains, 30C in hilly areas, 37C in coastal areas and when the departure from the normal maximum temperatures is at least 4.5 degrees

Delhi will vote on Saturday, along with the nearby states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, among others, in the penultimate phase of a seven-phase general election.

The IMD has declared a red-alert for a heatwave this week in Delhi, indicating a likelihood of searing temperatures that could cause heat-related illness for those exposed. The IMD has said heatwave to severe-heatwave conditions are very likely this week in many parts of grain-producing states like Punjab, and Haryana in the northwest, along with parts of Delhi and nearby Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The meteorological department is also forecasting “extremely” heavy rainfall over the southern state of Kerala this week and in neighboring Tamil Nadu state, due to cyclonic circulation referring to a particular wind circulation pattern over Kerala.

Monsoon is the lifeblood of India’s economy, delivering 70% of the rain needed to water crops and recharge reservoirs, and the met department has predicted that India will receive above normal monsoon rainfall in 2024.

Indians voted on Monday in the fifth phase of mammoth general elections, with film actors and sports celebrities among the thousands who turned out early in a bid to avoid scorching afternoon heat in the financial hub of Mumbai.

Three hours before voting closed, about 48% of voters had cast ballots in Monday’s phase of the world’s largest election, which began on April 19, as weather officials warned of more days of heatwaves than usual through the torrid summer.

Votes will be counted on June 4, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to win a rare third consecutive term.

Voters at a polling station in a tiny lane in central Mumbai waited for hours in snaking queues that advanced slowly. “It is claustrophobic and people are falling sick,” said housewife Shalini Pawar, 42, who queued for three hours. One woman nearly fainted in the heat. (Int’l News Desk)

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