Persistent heatwave overwhelms hospitals

NEW DELHI. — Hospitals in India were struggling yesterday to cope with an influx of victims of a blistering heatwave that has claimed nearly 1 500 lives in just over a week.

Hundreds of people, mainly from the poorest sections of society die at the height of summer every year in India, but this year’s figures are unusually high.

In southern Andhra Pradesh, by far the worst-hit state 1 020 people have died since May 18, more than double the number of heat-related deaths for the whole of last year.

In neighbouring Telangana, where temperatures hit 48°C over the weekend, 340 people have died from the heat recently compared to 31 in the whole of last year.

“Heatwave conditions in 2015 so far have been of a shorter duration, yet with a higher death toll,” said Arjuna Srinidhi, programme manager for climate change at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) research group.

“This could be due to the sudden change in temperatures after a prolonged wet February and March that had kept the temperatures cool.”

Hospitals in New Delhi, where top temperatures have soared to 45°C, were struggling to cope with the fall-out.

“Hospitals are overflowing with heatstroke victims,” said Ajay Lekhi, president of the Delhi Medical Association.

“Patients are complaining of severe headache and dizziness. They are also showing symptoms of delirium,” he added, describing a common symptom of severe dehydration.

Queues outside hospitals

The surge in demand for electricity from air conditioners led to power cuts in parts of Delhi, exacerbating the misery for residents of the capital.

Large queues formed outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, one of Delhi’s largest government-run hospitals, where women clutched plastic water bottles and packets of mango juice.

Others tried to console crying babies, their heads wrapped in handkerchiefs against the blistering sun. — AFP.