Climate risks: India feels the pain of extreme temperatures

The effects of climate change have become shockingly apparent in India this past week, as several states have suffered under punishing heatwaves.

India’s criteria for declaring a heatwave is when temperatures are at least 4.5C (40F) higher than normal – or above 45C (113F).

In the state of Uttar Pradesh temperatures in some areas soared to 47 degrees Celsius (116 Fahrenheit) last week, leading to hundreds of cases of heat-related illnesses. The largest hospital in the Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh, which is 600 miles south-east of New Delhi, was overrun with patients suffering from heat exhaustion.

Its morgue was reportedly overwhelmed and families were asked to take the bodies of their loved ones home.

The situation has been made worse by regular power cuts in the region, leaving people with no water, fans or air conditioners.

Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath said the state was taking measures to ensure an uninterrupted power supply.

But inside Ballia district hospital, there are no functioning air conditioners and malfunctioning temporary cooling units.

In the neighbouring state of Bihar, unrelenting heat has extended into its second week, forcing schools to close.

At least 44 people have died from heat-related illness across the state in recent weeks, according to reports, though the real number the number could be much higher as authorities struggle to accurately assess how many people have died from heatstroke.

Temperatures are expected to slightly cool over the coming days, according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), however experts say the climate crisis is only going to cause more frequent and longer heatwaves in the future, testing India’s ability to adapt.

A study by the academic group World Weather Attribution found the previous heat wave in April was made 30 times more likely by climate change.

The start of June has been the hottest on record, with global average air temperatures more than 1.5C hotter than before industrial times for the first time ever.