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India’s capital city records its hottest-ever day as temperatures soar to nearly 50C

A man drinks water at a roadside stall serving free drinking water to commuters as heat wave continues to grip the Indian capital, New Delhi.
A man drinks water at a roadside stall serving free drinking water to commuters as heat wave continues to grip the Indian capital, New Delhi. Copyright AP Photo/Manish Swarup
Copyright AP Photo/Manish Swarup
By Rosie Frost
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The intense heat has come with warnings about heatstroke and water rationing in some areas.

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Temperatures of more than 50C have been recorded in parts of northern and central India.

On Tuesday, a record-breaking 49.9C was seen in the Mungeshpur and Narela suburbs of the capital city Delhi, breaking the previous high of 49.2C seen in 2022. Some reports suggest that the capital city may have been even hotter on Wednesday afternoon, breaching 50C.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that temperatures were around 9C higher than expected for this time of year.

North Indian states like Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, and Delhi have been gripped by intense heat. On Tuesday, the city of Churu in Rajasthan topped 50.5C.

The city of Sirsa in Haryana reached 50.3C with energy infrastructure struggling under the load as people attempted to keep cool. In Delhi, electricity department officials also said that increased use of air conditioning has caused energy demand to soar to an all-time high.

Authorities warn of heatstroke and water shortages

The IMD has warned that the extreme heat could have an impact on health, particularly for children, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions.

It warned that there is a “very high likelihood” for people of all ages to develop heatstroke with particular care needed for people in vulnerable groups.

In Jaipur, the health department confirmed that there have been four deaths from heatstroke so far.

Extreme heat is also accompanied by severe water shortages with tens of millions of people in India lacking running water. Some areas of Delhi have struggled to access water while others have none at all, according to Atishi Marlena Singh, a senior minister in the city’s government.

A man covers his face with cloth to protect from the heat as he rides a bicycle through a busy street in Jammu, India.
A man covers his face with cloth to protect from the heat as he rides a bicycle through a busy street in Jammu, India.AP Photo/Channi Anand

The “acute heatwave” and a lack of water deliveries from the northern state of Haryana mean authorities have had to bring in rationing, she said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“To address the problem of water scarcity, we have taken a slew of measures such as reducing water supply from twice a day to once a day in many areas,” Atishi said, the Indian Express reported.

“The water thus saved will be rationed and supplied to the water-deficient areas where supply lasts only 15 to 20 minutes a day,” she added.

The IMD says heatwave and severe heatwave conditions are likely to gradually reduce from 30 May.

Are heatwaves becoming longer and more intense in India?

The weather office has said that while India frequently experiences hot humid summers from March to September, it is likely to experience longer and more intense heatwaves this year.

The country has been suffering under a brutal heatwave for a number of weeks. The states of Rajasthan and Gujarat saw from nine to 12 days of temperatures between 45C and 50C this month.

Research has found that this heat has become more intense over the last decade because of climate change. The heatwave that hit Asia in April was at least 45 times more likely due to climate change, according to the academic group World Weather Attribution.

Workers take refuge beneath a parked truck from the scorching heat, in Guwahati, India.
Workers take refuge beneath a parked truck from the scorching heat, in Guwahati, India.AP Photo/Anupam Nath

Climate experts also say temperatures in the region are around 0.85C hotter on average. One 2023 study from researchers at the University of Cambridge estimates that 24,000 people have died because of heatwaves in India since 1992. They say parts of the country could push the limits of human survivability by 2050.

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