Torrid summer kills 71, mostly in Bihar

| | New Delhi
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Torrid summer kills 71, mostly in Bihar

Saturday, 01 June 2024 | Archana Jyoti | New Delhi

Torrid summer kills 71, mostly in Bihar

Severe heatwave sweeping Northwest and Central India is increasingly becoming a public health crisis in India with around 71 people succumbing to heat-related illness especially sunstroke since March 1 till date even as Uttarakhand and Jammu region reported forest fires adding complexity to the ongoing situation on Friday.

The reports of deaths and illness cases due to heatwaves continue to surface every day. Tragically, on Friday, as several pockets of Northwest and Central India turned into a baking pan with temperatures soaring as high as 45 degrees Celsius, it proved fatal particularly to the polling personnel.

The Jammu and Kashmir Disaster Management Authority (JKDMA) which is mobilising resources, including drones, to combat the fires has issued an extreme forest fire risk warning for the coming week as temperatures soar and the dry conditions persist.

Fourteen people, including 10 polling personnel lost their lives to heatwave in the last 24 hours in Bihar alone, while four persons succumbed to sunstroke in Jharkhand.

In the eastern State 1,326 people were hospitalised due to the health risks posed by the intense heatwave. Uttar Pradesh's authorities also reported the death of 13 poll personnel in poll-bound Mirzapur district following fever, high BP. However, Principal of Maa Vindhyavasini Autonomous State Medical College Raj Bahadur Kamal said the exact reason is yet to be ascertained.

The deceased include seven Home Guard jawans, three sanitation workers, one clerk posted at the Chief Medical Officer's office, one chakbandi adhikaari (consolidation officer), and one peon in the Home Guard team, according to PTI reports. Meanwhile, the situation in Uttarakhand too is alarming as it has started battling another series of forest fires after a brief lull, affecting over 1,300 hectares and causing significant environmental damage.

Since November 2023, there have been 1,167 forest fire incidents in the State, claiming six lives and injuring five people, as per the officials.

On Thursday, at least 24 people died of suspected heatstroke in India's eastern States of Bihar and Odisha, and the heatwave in the region is expected to continue until Saturday, authorities said. Delhi, which recorded a temperature of 45.4 degrees Celsius on Friday afternoon, reported its first heat-related death this week and is also facing an acute water shortage.

Experts, however, cautioned that death and heat-related illness data might represent only a fraction of the actual impact, highlighting the severe health consequences of humid heat in Northwest and Central regions.

As the intense heatwave wreaks havoc in Bihar, where temperatures soared to 47.1 degrees Celsius in Buxar, the State Government has shut down schools and educational institutions until June 8 and has initiated ex-gratia payments to the families of the deceased.

Till mid-May , the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had reported 32 confirmed and 28 suspected heatstroke deaths, emphasising the severe health risks posed by the extreme temperatures.

On May 22, two individuals succumbed to suspected heatstroke in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan's Kota, adding to the staggering 16,344 suspected heat stroke cases reported since March 1, with 486 cases documented on that single day.

In the absence of correct data, the number of deaths and cases of illness due to the extreme heat events are not known. For instance, the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences has reported 6,751 heatwave deaths between 2009 and 2022. In contrast, the NDMA recorded 11,090 deaths in the same period.

India has been experiencing a blisteringly hot summer, and a part of Delhi recorded the country's highest ever temperature at 52.9 degrees Celsius this week, though that may be revised with the weather department checking the sensors of the weather station that registered the reading.

While temperatures in Northwestern and Central India are expected to fall in the coming days, the prevailing heatwave over East India is likely to continue for two days, said the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

The deaths of 10 people were also reported in the Government hospital in Odisha's Rourkela region on the same day, authorities said, prompting the State Government to suggest residents against outdoor activities between 11 am and 3 pm when temperatures peak.

In Rajasthan, the Government on Thursday announced that five people had died from heatstroke and added that reports about a higher toll being circulated in the media were "beyond facts".

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