BHUBANESWAR: More than 100 people are feared dead in India in an early-summer heatwave which has forced schools to close and halted outdoor work, government officials said on Thursday.
Neighbouring Pakistan, which suffered its hottest spell in decades last year, plans to open 500 response centres to provide shelter and cold water to people if a heatwave warning is issued, a government official said. No deaths have yet been reported.
India’s hottest months are May and June, but some states have already registered temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius, forcing authorities to take emergency steps.
Odisha has closed schools and banned construction work during the hottest period of day
In the southern Indian state of Telangana, 45 people died from heat exposure, and another 17 in Andhra Pradesh, officials said. Some 43 were believed to have died in neighbouring Odisha, although an official there said each of the deaths was being investigated.
Y.K. Reddy, a director at the Indian Meteorological Department, said Telangana had recorded its highest April temperatures since at least 2006.
Reddy said there were worries the death toll in Telangana could rise and his department was issuing heatwave warnings to advise people to stay indoors.
Schools in Telangana were shut last week, two weeks ahead of their summer holidays. As an emergency measure, Odisha has ordered schools to remain closed until April 26 and banned construction work during the hottest times of day.
Some small-scale businesses are already suffering.
“I am closing my shop before noon because it is too hot,” said Tulu Sahu, a small grocery seller in Bhubaneswar city in Odisha. “You cannot stay in the shop.”
Pakistan, where extreme heat killed more than 1,000 people during Ramazan last year, has started gearing up to tackle any sudden rise in number of people who report heat-related illnesses.
“We have enough supplies and staff to meet the possible situation,” said Seemin Jamali, head of the emergency department at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi.