NEWS

India Heatwave Sees Roads Melt As Temperatures Sizzle At 47 Degrees

28/05/2015 15:27 | Updated 28 May 2015

No that isn't your eyes playing up, India is enduring such a severe heat wave some of its roads are actually melting.

At time of publication, 1,412 heat-related deaths had been reported as temperatures soar up to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Farenheit.) in some parts of the country. Most of these deaths have occurred in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring Telangana.

Meteorological officials have said the heat would likely last several more days - scorching crops, killing wildlife and endangering anyone laboring outdoors.

Officials warned people to stay out of the sun, cover their heads and drink plenty of water. Still, poverty forced many to work despite the risks.

melting roads in india

A road melting near Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, India

"Either we have to work, putting our lives under threat, or we go without food," farmer Narasimha said in the badly hit Nalgonda district of southern Andhra Pradesh state.

"If I don't work due to the heat, how will my family survive?" said construction worker Mahalakshmi, who earns a daily wage of about $3.10 in Nizamabad, a city about 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of the state capital of Hyderabad.

  • Arkaprava Ghosh/Barcroft
    A road melting near Safdarjung Hospital after the Temperature rise to 45 degree Celsius during a hot weather as Delhi/NCR experienced yet another scorching day, on May 24, 2015 in New Delhi, India.
  • Arkaprava Ghosh/Barcroft
    A road melting near Safdarjung Hospital after the Temperature rise to 45 degree Celsius during a hot weather as Delhi/NCR experienced yet another scorching day, on May 24, 2015 in New Delhi, India.
  • Arkaprava Ghosh/Barcroft
    A road melting near Safdarjung Hospital after the Temperature rise to 45 degree Celsius during a hot weather as Delhi/NCR experienced yet another scorching day, on May 24, 2015 in New Delhi, India.
  • Hindustan Times via Getty Images
    NEW DELHI, INDIA - MAY 24: A road melt near Safdarjung Hospital after the Temperature rise to 45 degree Celsius during a hot weather as Delhi/NCR experienced yet another scorching day, on May 24, 2015 in New Delhi, India. The national capital sizzling today as heat wave-like conditions prevailed across the city with mercury hovering above 45.3 degree Celsius, making life tough for the Delhiites. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
  • Hindustan Times via Getty Images
    NEW DELHI, INDIA - MAY 24: Heat rippled mirage was seen at Rajpath during a hot weather as Delhi/NCR experienced yet another scorching day, on May 24, 2015 in New Delhi, India. The national capital sizzling today as heat wave-like conditions prevailed across the city with mercury hovering above 45.3 degree Celsius, making life tough for the Delhiites. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
  • NARINDER NANU via Getty Images
    An Indian worker uses a ricksahw to transport ice from an ice factory in Amritsar on May 27, 2015. More than 1,100 people have died in a blistering heatwave sweeping India, authorities said May 27, 2015, as forecasters warned searing temperatures would continue. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Pacific Press via Getty Images
    ALLAHABAD, INDIA - 2015/05/27: A shopkeeper rests with his watermelons during a hot summer day. Hundreds of people have died in southern India since the middle of April as soaring summer temperatures scorch the country, officials said Tuesday. (Photo by Prabhat Kumar Verma/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    An Indian passenger takes a bath beside rail tracks on a hot summer day at a railway station in Jammu, India, Monday, May 25, 2015. Severe heat wave conditions continue to prevail at several places in northern India with temperatures reaching 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit). (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
  • Pacific Press via Getty Images
    ALLAHABAD, INDIA - 2015/05/27: Buffaloes cooling in the River Yamuna on a hot summer day. Hundreds of people have died in southern India since the middle of April as soaring summer temperatures scorch the country, officials said Tuesday. (Photo by Prabhat Kumar Verma/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
  • NARINDER NANU via Getty Images
    Indian workers load ice blocks onto a rickshaw at an ice factory in Amritsar on May 27, 2015. More than 1,100 people have died in a blistering heatwave sweeping India, authorities said May 27, 2015, as forecasters warned searing temperatures would continue. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Pacific Press via Getty Images
    KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015/05/27: People bath using a KMC water pipe at the E.M. Bypass as the mercury heat wave rises continuously in Kolkata and many other parts India. (Photo by Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    An Indian man rests inside a concrete pipe on a hot summer day in Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. Hundreds of people have died in southern India since the middle of April as soaring summer temperatures scorch the country, officials said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    An Indian auto rickshaw driver rests on a hot summer day in Hyderabad, India, Monday, May 25, 2015. Hundreds of people have died since mid-April in a heat wave sweeping two southeast Indian states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, officials said Saturday. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A boys cools himself under a fountain on a hot afternoon in New Delhi, India, Friday, May 8, 2015. Delhi recorded a maximum of 42 degrees Celsius on Friday. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
  • NOAH SEELAM via Getty Images
    An Indian man covers his face as drives on a scooter under the hot sun in Hyderabad on May 26, 2015. More than 430 people have died in two Indian states from a days-long heatwave that has seen temperatures nudging 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), officials said May 25. Officials warned the toll was almost certain to rise, with figures still being collected in some parts of the hard-hit Telangana state in the south of the country, and with no end in sight to the searing conditions AFPHOTO/ Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
  • NARINDER NANU via Getty Images
    An Indian worker loads ice blocks on to a rickshaw at an ice factory in Amritsar on May 27, 2015. More than 1,100 people have died in a blistering heatwave sweeping India, authorities said May 27, 2015, as forecasters warned searing temperatures would continue. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)
  • MONEY SHARMA via Getty Images
    This combination of images created on May 28, 2015, shows a young Indian child as he bathes at a waterpump in an attempt to keep cool in New Delhi. More than 1,100 people have died in a blistering heatwave sweeping India, authorities said, as forecasters warned searing temperatures would continue. AFP PHOTO/MONEY SHARMA (Photo credit should read MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)
  • CHANDAN KHANNA via Getty Images
    A mirage shimmers over Raphath leading to India Gate in New Delhi on May 28, 2015. More than 1,100 people have died in a blistering heatwave sweeping India, authorities said, as forecasters warned searing temperatures would continue. AFP PHOTO / Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP
    An elderly Hindu devotee offers prayers at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, in Allahabad, India, Thursday, May 28, 2015. Hindus across the country are celebrating Ganga Dussehra, devoted to the worship of the River Ganges. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
  • NARINDER NANU via Getty Images
    An Indian worker throws water outside a resteraunt in Amritsar on May 26, 2015, in an attempt to keep the pavement cool on a hot day. At least 800 people have died in a major heatwave that has swept across India, melting roads in New Delhi as temperatures neared 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit). AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    An Indian motorist covers his face with a scarf to protect himself from the heat on a hot summer day in Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. Hundreds of people have died in southern India since the middle of April as soaring summer temperatures scorch the country, officials said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
  • Arkaprava Ghosh/Barcroft
    A dog takes shelter under a bench to escape the heat on May 28, 2015 in New Delhi
  • Arkaprava Ghosh/Barcroft
    A man takes a nap on his stall of soft drinks on May 28, 2015 in New Delhi, India.
  • Arkaprava Ghosh/Barcroft
    A boy takes a dip at a pond near India Gate on May 28, 2015 in New Delhi, India
  • Arkaprava Ghosh/Barcroft

Most of the 1,412 heat-related deaths so far have occurred in Andhra Pradesh and neighboring Telangana, where temperatures have soared up to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit), according to government figures.

"The rains which have eluded us for the last couple of years have created serious drought conditions," said state minister K.T. Rama Rao in Telangana, which was carved out of Andhra Pradesh as a separate state just last year.

"This is unprecedented ... so there is a little bit of panic," he said. "Hopefully the monsoon will be on time. Hopefully we will receive rain very, very soon."

Among the most vulnerable were the elderly and the poor, many of whom live in slums or farm huts with no access to air conditioners or sometimes even shade-giving trees.

Those who were able avoided the outdoors, leaving many streets in normally busy cities nearly deserted.

"With so many people dying due to the heat, we are locking the children inside," teacher Satyamurthy said in Khammam, which registered its highest temperature in 67 years on Saturday when the thermometer hit 48 degrees Celsius (more than 118 Fahrenheit).

Cooling monsoon rains were expected to arrive next week in the southern state of Kerala and gradually advance north in coming weeks.

Until then, volunteers were passing out pouches of salted buttermilk or raw onions - both thought to be hydrating. People used handkerchiefs and scarves to block searing winds and stifling air from their faces.

Across the country, teenagers flocked to water basins and rivers to cool off. Many adults took refuge atop woven cots in the shade.

Newspapers devoted full pages to covering the heat wave and its effects, with headlines saying "Homeless bake in tin shelters" and "birds & animals drop dead."

In cities like New Delhi, crowds of office workers gathered around stalls selling fruit drinks and iced water, while police officers wearing sweat-soaked shirts squinted into the sun while directing road traffic.

At the zoo, leopards and tigers lay panting in the shade until zoo keepers came by every two hours with hoses. One white tiger rolled around in obvious delight while being sprayed with water. Elephants drank thirstily and lolled in a pond.

"We are even spraying the reptiles," Delhi Zoo curator Riyaz Khan said, noting fans were also set up to keep enclosures cooler, while the animals were also receiving glucose in their drinking water.

In the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, Sikhs distributed free glasses of rose-scented milk to the public. Brief spurts of rain brought temporary relief to pockets of the nation, including the southern city of Chennai and the eastern city of Jharkhand.

Forecasting service AccuWeather described this as the most intense heat wave in India in recent years. The death toll for Andhra Pradesh alone, at 1,360, was higher than during a 2003 heat wave when 1,300 died in what was then a unified state including both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Doctors were on alert for heat-related illness like sun stroke, and were telling people venturing outdoors to cover their heads and wear light, loose clothing, said health officer Sarojini in the city of Vishakapatnam who goes by one name, as is common in the region.

Telangana's school board postponed the start date for colleges for a week from Monday. The state also opened centers where cold water was being served, and changed the working hours for rural employment schemes, disaster management official Sada Bhargavi said.

Hyderabad resident Rajaiah, who goes by one name, was doing his newspaper delivery route at dawn to avoid peak temperatures.

"It is difficult to do this work in this harsh weather, but I have a family to take care of."

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS