India shuts schools as temperatures soar

Published May 21, 2024
A man ties a newly purchased air cooler on his motorcycle, near a roadside market on a hot summer afternoon in New Delhi on May 20, 2024, amid the ongoing heatwave. — AFP
A man ties a newly purchased air cooler on his motorcycle, near a roadside market on a hot summer afternoon in New Delhi on May 20, 2024, amid the ongoing heatwave. — AFP

Indian authorities in the capital have ordered schools shut early for the summer holiday, after temperatures hit 47.4 degrees Celsius with Delhi gripped by a “severe heatwave”.

Delhi city officials asked schools to shut with “immediate effect” due to the blistering heat, according to a government order quoted by the Hindustan Times on Tuesday, cutting short the term by a few days.

India’s weather bureau has warned of “severe heatwave conditions” this week, with the mercury reaching the sizzling peak of 47.4 degrees Celsius in Delhi’s Najafgarh suburb on Monday, the hottest temperature countrywide.

Authorities in other states — including Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan — have also ordered schools close, India Today reported.

India is no stranger to searing summer temperatures.

But years of scientific research have found climate change is causing heatwaves to become longer, more frequent and more intense.

The Indian Meteorological Department warned of the impact of the heat on the health especially for infants, the elderly and those with chronic diseases.

In May 2022, parts of Delhi hit 49.2 degrees Celsius, Indian media reported at the time.

The next round of voting in India’s six-week-long election takes place on Saturday, including in Delhi.

Turnout in voting has dipped, with analysts suggesting the hotter-than-average weather is a factor — as well as the widespread expectation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will easily win a third term.

India’s election commission has formed a task force to review the impact of heatwaves and humidity before each round of voting.

At the same time, India’s southern states including Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been lashed by heavy rains over the past few days.

Severe storms also hit parts of the country last week, including in the financial capital Mumbai, where strong winds flattened a giant billboard that killed 16 people and left dozens more trapped.

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