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Heatwave in India: Extreme temperatures during the night give Delhiites little respite


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New Delhi

Nights are becoming uncomfortably and dangerously hot in the Indian capital, as people in the world’s most populous country find little relief from the harsh temperatures.

Northern India has suffered a scorching summer, with the temperature in one part of Delhi reaching 49.9 degrees Celsius (121.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in late May, the highest temperature recorded in the capital.

But the stifling heat continues even after the scorching sun sets.

The city cools by just 8.5 degrees Celsius at night compared to 12.2 degrees in suburban urban areas, a report published last month by the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) to track urban heat stress in Delhi found.

Warmer nights prevent people from resting and recovering after long hours of exposure to extreme heat, especially for people who do not have access to air conditioning.

Sagar Mandal, a cyclist, told CNN that he is receiving fewer passengers because people are opting for air-conditioned taxis instead of open-air transportation.

“My body can’t stand it, but I have to keep cycling. We’re used to physical labor, and we don’t complain about it. But this heat is not normal, I have to do it,” said the 39-year-old, who cycles around the city. For something to change.”

“No one cares if we live or die, no matter who you vote for, this is a problem that no one can solve,” he said.

Isha Mitra/CNN

Outdoor workers like Nikhil Kumar find no relief as the heat persists even at night.

Rickshaw driver Nikhil Kumar said his work days have become longer and more difficult amid the high temperatures.

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The 26-year-old driver said: “The weather is not getting better at night, even at night I am sweating. It rained a little last night but look how hot it is today, there is no relief.”

Hotter nights are a result of the climate crisis, Scientists have warned – Increased health risks resulting from heat stress.

Studies have shown Higher nighttime temperatures make it difficult to sleep and reduce deep waves and rapid eye movement (REM), both of which are important for how well the body repairs and refreshes itself at night.

In the United States, for example, nights are warming faster than days in most parts of the country 2018 National Climate Assessment is found.

Mandal, the rickshaw driver, said he was sleeping on the roof of his house in search of some hope of cooler air but only for two hours.

“I barely sleep these days,” he said.

Exposure to heat waves during pregnancy may be associated with adverse outcomes such as premature birth, according to A 2019 study. Older adults may experience higher heart rates and increased physiological stress when sleeping at warmer temperatures. a Australian study 2008 Deaths due to psychological and behavioral disorders even increased during heat waves, especially among the elderly.

Electricity scarcity, water problems and heat stress

Increased temperature during the night is more common in cities like Delhi due to… Urban heat island effect, with metro areas being noticeably hotter than surrounding areas. Areas with lots of dense asphalt and concrete buildings absorb more heat from the sun than areas with wide parks, rivers, and tree-lined streets.

Hot days and nights are testing the limits of the country’s electricity grid and water supplies, and the strain on resources is already causing people to fall ill.

“We have been living in this neighborhood for 40 years, but we have never seen a summer like this before,” said 60-year-old Kalyani Saha, a resident of the capital’s Lajpat Nagar neighborhood.

“The power has been cut for the last two hours, in the middle of the day, and it is unbearable,” Saha told CNN, adding that the power outage renders their air conditioning system useless.

“We only get water once a day, and it’s very hot, and unless you fill a bucket and let it cool all day before using it, you won’t be able to shower with that water,” she said.

Saha also said that her grandson has been sick for a week.

“She’s small, she can’t handle this, this is not a human level of heat,” she said.

Moni Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

Residents fill their containers with water supplied by a municipal tanker in New Delhi on June 19, 2024.

At least 40,000 cases of heatstroke have been reported in India since March, a health ministry official told CNN on Thursday, and at least 110 people have died across the country from suspected heatstroke as well.

Hotter nights mean more stress on the body, says Dr Ajay Chauhan, in-charge of the first-of-its-kind stroke unit at Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital in Delhi.

“When someone has heatstroke, things progress very quickly, so without early intervention, the death rate from heatstroke is very high,” Chauhan said.

Chauhan said people working outside all day needed time to cool down and recover, but he acknowledged that “this was not possible.”

At least 11 people have died from heatstroke at the hospital where he has worked since May 29, and on Thursday alone more than 20 new patients were admitted to the hospital for various heat-related illnesses.

Over the past five decades, India has witnessed More than 700 heat wave events It has claimed more than 17,000 lives, according to a 2021 study of extreme weather in the journal Weather and Climate Extremes.

Delhi recorded the highest number of homeless deaths in the last five years during the nine-day period.

From June 11 to 19, Delhi saw 192 heatwave-related deaths among its displaced population, a record number compared to the same period in the past five years, according to a report by the Center for Health Development in India, an NGO.

“Almost all those living on the streets reported suffering from insomnia,” the report said, adding that they suffered from several heat-related illnesses.

Isha Mitra/CNN

Even air conditioning isn’t helping amid power outages, Kalyani Saha, 60, told CNN on June 20, 2024.

Sarita Kumari was sleeping on the streets of Delhi with her three children, and she told CNN that her three-year-old son had been suffering from a high temperature all week.

“We have a house, but there are many of us, and when the electricity goes out, we feel suffocated,” Kumari said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the temperatures recorded in Delhi at all. It has been updated.

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