Parts of Northern India Scorched by Extreme Heat with New Delhi on High Alert

 A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)
A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)
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Parts of Northern India Scorched by Extreme Heat with New Delhi on High Alert

 A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)
A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)

Parts of northwest India sweltered under scorching temperatures on Saturday, with the capital New Delhi under a severe weather alert as extreme temperatures strike parts of the country.

India's weather department expects heat wave conditions to persist across the north for the next few days, and has put several states on high alert.

On Friday, parts of New Delhi reported up to 47.1 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit). The nearby states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan also saw temperatures soar and are likely to stay high over the next few days, said Soma Sen Roy, a scientist at the India Meteorological Department.

Roy cautioned people against going outdoors under the afternoon sun, drink lots of water and wear loose-fitting clothes while who are especially vulnerable like the elderly should stay indoors.

The extreme temperatures in northern India coincide with a 6-week-long general election, with experts worried that the heat wave could increase health risks as people wait in long lines to cast their vote or candidates campaign aggressively in the outdoors. One minister fainted due to heat last month while addressing an election rally in Maharashtra state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as his main challenger, Rahul Gandhi of the opposition Congress Party, are expected to hold rallies in New Delhi later on Saturday, as the city heads to the polls on May 25.

The main summer months — April, May and June — are always hot in most parts of India before monsoon rains bring cooler temperatures. But the heat has become more intense in the past decade and is usually accompanied by severe water shortages, with tens of millions of India's 1.4 billion people lacking running water.

A study by World Weather Attribution, an academic group that examines the source of extreme heat, found that a searing heat wave in April that struck parts of Asia was made at least 45 times more likely in some parts of the continent by climate change.

Climate experts say extreme heat in South Asia during the pre-monsoon season is becoming more frequent and the study found that extreme temperatures are now about 0.85 C (1.5 F) hotter in the region because of climate change.

At least 28 heat-related deaths were reported in Bangladesh, as well as five in India in April. Surges in heat deaths have also been reported in Thailand and the Philippines this year, according to the study.

Extreme heat is fast becoming a public health crisis in India, with more than 150 people dying last year during heat waves. The government estimates nearly 11,000 people have died during heat waves this century, yet experts say such figures are likely a vast undercount.



Greece Battles Wildfires Fanned by Gale Force Winds

A plane drops water during a wildfire, in Kitsi, near the town of Koropi, Greece, June 19, 2024. (Reuters)
A plane drops water during a wildfire, in Kitsi, near the town of Koropi, Greece, June 19, 2024. (Reuters)
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Greece Battles Wildfires Fanned by Gale Force Winds

A plane drops water during a wildfire, in Kitsi, near the town of Koropi, Greece, June 19, 2024. (Reuters)
A plane drops water during a wildfire, in Kitsi, near the town of Koropi, Greece, June 19, 2024. (Reuters)

Hundreds of firefighters struggled on Saturday to contain wildfires fanned by gale force winds on two Greek islands and in other parts of Greece, as authorities warned many regions face a high risk of new blazes.

More than 30 firefighters backed by two aircraft and five helicopters were battling a wildfire burning οn the island of Andros in the Aegean, away from tourist resorts, where four communities were evacuated as a precaution.

"More firefighters (are) expected on the island later in the day," a fire services official told Reuters, adding there were no reports of damage or injuries.

Wildfires are common in Greece, but they have become more devastating in recent years amid hotter and drier summers that scientists link to climate change. A wildfire near Athens last week forced dozens to flee their homes, which authorities said they believed was the result of arson as well as the hot, dry conditions.

Meteorologists say the latest fires are the first time that the country has experienced "hot-dry-windy" conditions so early in the summer.

"I can't remember another year facing such conditions so early, in early and mid-June," meteorologist Thodoris Giannaros told state TV.

On Friday, a 55-year-old man died in hospital after being injured in a blaze in the region of Ilia on Greece's Peloponnese peninsula, as several fires burned on Greece's southern tip.

Several hundred firefighters have been deployed to battle more than 70 forest fires across the country since Friday. High winds and hot temperatures will extend the risk into Sunday, the fire service said.

Earlier on Saturday, firefighters tamed a forest fire on the island of Salamina, in the Saronic Gulf west of Athens, and another about 30 kilometers east of the capital.

After forest fires last year forced 19,000 people to flee the island of Rhodes and killed 20 in the northern mainland, Greece has scaled up its preparations this year by hiring more staff and stepping up training.