A record-breaking heat wave is currently gripping India, killing hundreds, with temperatures hot enough to liquefy asphalt.
"As of now, we don’t predict any respite from the extreme heatwave for the next few days," reports a spokesman from India’s Meteorological Department, B. P. Yadav. They expect to see temperatures in excess of 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) over the next few days, and have issued multiple heat warnings to the affected states.
At least 800 people have died from heatstroke and related complications, including 551 from the city of Hyderabad, the capital of the worst-hit state. Temperatures in New Delhi are reported to have hit near 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), hot enough to liquefy street pavement enough to distort road markings. 134 Fahrenheit is the temperature at which most human bodies become unable to cope with heat, but 122 is high enough to cause death in vulnerable population groups such as the very young, the very old, and those who exert themselves without adequate access to fluids.
Poorly-maintained power grids are struggling and failing to keep up with the demand for more electricity, as energy-hungry air conditioners overwhelm the system. Only a small percentage of the Indian population has access to air conditioning.
While hundreds of people from the poorest sections of India die every year from the heat, the current heat wave is five degrees Celsius higher than seasonal, with no immediate end in sight. The Hindustan Times is warning that the hot, dry conditions are likely to trigger a drought in the worst-hit regions before the monsoon rains are due to arrive, forecast to not arrive for another few weeks in the north. It is possible that developing el Nino conditions in the Pacific may delay or disrupt this year’s monsoon.