A relentless heat wave has claimed more than 1,000 lives in southern India in recent weeks, officials said Tuesday, warning that the scorching temperatures would continue for several more days.
Temperatures as high as 118 degrees have been reported in the south and have reached 113 degrees even in the cooler northern capital, New Delhi, prompting meteorological officials to issue red alerts for dehydration and heat stroke in three states.
In the southern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh, which saw some of the hottest conditions in the country, 852 people have died in recent weeks, the Press Trust of India reported. More than 200 have also died in neighboring Telangana state, officials said.
In New Delhi, the scorching sun melted asphalt on a major road, causing a white-striped crosswalk to pool into black. State health officials and news channels urged people to remain indoors, drink water and avoid protein-heavy meals and alcohol.
May is typically one of the hottest months of the year in India, but the India Meteorological Department said this was the severest stretch recorded in a decade. Officials said a respite was likely to come by the end of the week, followed by the anticipated arrival of the annual monsoon rains, which break the feverish temperatures.
"The intensity of the heat wave will start decreasing from May 28 onward," B.P. Yadav, director of the department, told the India Today news channel.
The Indian Ocean monsoon is expected to hit land in the southern state of Kerala on May 30, although it will take weeks before it reaches the northern half of the country, where intense heat and dry winds have caused severe dehydration.
In Andhra Pradesh, the state government announced it would pay the equivalent of $1,600 to families of people who died from the heat, deputy chief minister N. Chinna Rajappa said. The state also put doctors on alert to treat heat-affected residents.