BALLIA, India — Nearly 170 people have died in two of India’s most populous states in recent days amid a sweltering heat wave, officials said Monday, as hospitals are overwhelmed with patients and routine power outages add to the challenges.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, 119 people have died from heat-related illnesses over the last several days while in neighboring Bihar state 47 people have died, according to local news reports and health officials.
The largest hospital in Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh is unable to accommodate more patients, officials said, and its morgue was overwhelmed after 54 people died due to the heat. Families were told to bring the dead bodies home.
While northern regions of India are known for sweltering heat during the summer months, temperatures have been consistently above normal, according to the Indian Meteorological Department, with highs in recent days reaching 43. 5 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit). A heat wave is declared in India if temperatures are at least 4. 5 degrees Celsius above normal or if the temperature is above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
“We’ve been sending heat wave alerts since the last few days,” Atul Kumar, a scientist with the IMD.
Despite warnings from government officials, they did not urge people to prepare for heat until the deaths began increasing on Sunday.
Adding to the heat stress are consistent power outages across the region, leaving people with no running water, fans or air conditioners.
Chief Minister Yogi Amityanath of Uttar Pradesh said that the government is taking steps to guarantee an uninterrupted supply of electricity in the state. The chief minister urged the citizens to work with government officials and make wise use of electricity.
“Every village and every city should receive adequate power supply during this scorching heat. In a Friday evening statement, he stated that any problems should be addressed immediately.
Inside Ballia District Hospital, chaotic scenes recalled the pandemic of coronavirus, as families and doctors scrambled to provide medical care for many urgent patients. The corridors smelled of urine, garbage and medical waste, and hospital walls were stained with betel leaf spit.
” All our staff have been working here three days in a row and are overworked”, said Aditya Singh.
The hospital wards had no air conditioning and the cooling units installed did not work properly because of power fluctuations. In an effort to cool patients, attendants were wiping sweat and fanning them with books.
Officials in the district hospital say more severe cases are now being shifted to hospitals in bigger cities nearby such as Varanasi and more doctors and medical resources are being sent to the district hospital to deal with the heat-induced crisis.
Outside, Ballia residents told the AP they were scared of going outside after midmorning.
“So much heat is killing people that there’s no time for rest. On Sunday, I carried 26 dead bodies,” Jitendra Kumar Yadav, a hearse driver in Deoria town, 110 kilometers (68 miles) from Ballia, told the AP.
Climate experts say that heat waves will continue and India needs to prepare better to deal with their consequences. 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 South Asia was made at least 30 times more likely by climate change.
“Plans to deal with heatwaves will help minimize their impact and save lives. Aditya Pillai is an associate fellow with the Centre for Policy Research, a think tank based in New Delhi. These plans are all-encompassing and include public awareness campaigns, cooling centers, healthcare assistance, etc.
Associated Press writer Biswajeet Banerjee contributed to this story from Lucknow, India. Indrajit Singh, a writer for the Associated Press in Patna (India), contributed to this article. Arasu contributed from Bengaluru in India.
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