More than a billion people in South Asia are facing a record-breaking heat wave that leaves them “gasp in whatever shade they find”.
Temperatures in northern India and Pakistan have soared to 47 degrees Celsius after Pakistan experienced its hottest March in 61 years.
Pakistan’s climate change minister today asked local officials to prepare for flash floods and a flood of heatstroke patients in the country’s hospitals.
A thirsty Bangladeshi man drinks from a water bottle in the capital Dhaka on Wednesday
Temperatures in South Asia have risen; in Pakistan they peaked at 47 degrees Celsius
Sherry Rehman also mobilized emergency response teams to prepare for flooding as the ice from the Himalayan glaciers continues to melt at an alarming rate.
She said: ‘South Asia, especially India and Pakistan, is facing a record-breaking heat wave. It started in early April and is still making people gasp in the shade they find.’
The appalling heat is six to eight degrees above the seasonal average.
For the first time in decades, Pakistan has gone from winter to summer without the spring season, Ms Rehman added.
A fan salesman sits under an umbrella in New Delhi yesterday. Electricity demand has skyrocketed
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday: “Temperatures are rising rapidly in the country and are rising much earlier than normal.”
The heat shock has caused glaciers in the Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Karkoram mountain ranges to melt faster.
About 30 glacial lakes created by recent heat increases are now at risk of dangerous flooding.
That makes 7 million people immediately vulnerable, authorities said.
A boy cycles amid thick smoke from a nearby landfill fire in New Delhi on Wednesday
Temperatures are expected to drop after the monsoons arrive, and the season is expected to arrive in May.
But temperatures in their mid to high 40s are expected to persist for several more days, exposing people to heatstroke and a host of other health risks.
“We get a lot of patients with heatstroke or other heat-related problems,” said Mona Desai, former president of the Ahmedabad Medical Association in Gujarat, western India.
Huge fire at a landfill site in New Delhi this week was exacerbated by record heat
Himalayan glacier lakes could overflow if ice continues to melt (Ngozumpa, Nepal pictured)
She said 60-70% of the patients were school age and complained of vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, weakness and other symptoms.
Roads were deserted in Bhubaneshwar, India’s eastern state of Odisha, where schools have been closed.
Neighboring West Bengal has brought the schools summer vacation a few days early.
In Pakistan, the run-up to the religious holiday of Eid was dampened by intense heat and frequent power cuts, as most of the population fasted during Ramadan.
Increased power demand with rising temperatures, fuel shortages and infrastructure problems are putting pressure on Pakistan’s electricity system.
That caused frequent power outages, also known as load shedding.
Residents of the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said the power went out at times for 10 to 14 hours a day, leaving little room for cooling.
Temperatures in New Delhi were 41 degrees Celsius in early April – and have continued to rise since then
“The weather is unreasonably hot these days, but the power outage for hours… made our misery even worse,” said Abdul Salam Khan, owner of a shoe brand in the northern city of Peshawar.
Mr Khan added that the heat wave dented the expected surge in shoe sales before Eid as many people stayed at home in the intense heat while their stores struggled to function during power cuts.
A UN report published Monday said humanity has experienced between 350 and 500 medium or major disasters worldwide in the past two decades.
But the Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNODRR) expects this number to increase to about 560 disasters per year by 2030 as climate change continues.
A group of boys in Lahore, Pakistan jumped into a canal earlier today to get out of the heat
By comparison, the world suffered only 90 to 100 medium-to-major disasters per year between 1970 and 2000.
If the assessment proves correct, it means that disasters such as fires and floods, as well as other hazards such as pandemics or chemical accidents, will occur at a frequency of 1.5 per day by 2030, endangering millions of lives.
Climate change is causing more extreme weather events, the report said, adding that people have made decisions that are too narrow in focus and too optimistic about the risk of potential disasters, leaving them unprepared.
Pakistanis are doing their best to stay cool, but the temperatures leave them no choice but to “pant,” the country’s climate change minister said. Swimmers photographed earlier today in Karachi
The impact of disasters has also been magnified by the growing population in areas more prone to natural disasters.
Rising temperatures and increasing heat waves seem to pose the greatest threat.
The number of extreme heat waves in 2030 will be three times as high as in 2001 and there will be 30 percent more droughts, the report predicted based on models for the future and trends from the past.