Heat wave death toll nears 2,000 in Andhra, Telangana

India Meteorological Department issues heat wave alerts to states across the country

By M Suchitra
Published: Wednesday 27 May 2015

In 2002-2003, about 3,000 people had died within a week, the highest ever in the country

On hearing the news of the death of his son, 72-year-old Suryanarayana Murthi immediately boarded a bus to reach his son’s place. But Murthi, a resident of Narsapur in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district, could not complete the journey to bid farewell to his 32-yeard old son, who was a priest in a temple in Ibrahimpatnam in the neighbouring Krishna district and had fallen prey to the heatwave. As Murthi reached Vijayawada, after travelling for about three hours in the searing heat, he vomited and collapsed and died.

This is how people have been dying in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the two states worst hit by the ongoing heat wave. According to official statements issued by both the states, total death toll stands at 1,150. B R Meena, principal secretary, revenue department,Telangana told Down To Earth that the state’s death toll was 266 till Tuesday night. For Andhra Pradesh, J C Sharma, commissioner, disaster management, informed that 884 people had died of heatwave by Tuesday.

The actual figures, however, might be higher. According to Eenadu, quotes a regional daily that has been keeping track of deaths in the two states, at least 2,600 people have lost their lives since May 21. On Tuesday alone, about 403 people died in Andhra Pradesh and 220 in Telangana.

Daily death toll
Date Deaths in Andhra Pradesh Deaths in Telangana
May 26 403 220
May 25 390 232
May 24 485 249
May 23 391 251
May 22 204 223
May 21 78 147
(Source: Eenadu, Telugu daily)

In Andhra Pradesh, severe heat wave conditions prevail in Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, Prakasham and Nellore district, with the average temperature hovering above 45°C. Parts of Telangana are experiencing heat waves on a scale not seen in decades.

This is not the first time that so many people lost their lives in heat wave in the two Telugu-speaking states. In 2002-2003, about 3,000 people had died within a week, the highest ever in the country. The state had witnessed similar prolonged heat waves in 1996 and 1998.

"Heat wave is a usual phenomenon in both the states in the third week of May,” points out Narasimha Rao, scientist at the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Hyderabad. “It is the persistence of heat wave that caused a lot of harm," he says. The scientist also informed that the heat wave is in no way related to El Niño.

Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the kin of those who have died.


IMD warns other states

On Tuesday, severe heat wave (7°C above normal) and heat wave (5°C above the normal) conditions prevailed in many parts of the two states. News reports also suggest at least 24 people have died from the heat in West Bengal and Odisha.

Meanwhile, IMD issued an alert on Tuesday evening, saying severe heat wave conditions are expected to prevail at a few places in Odisha, Jharkhand and Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. States like Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab will experience heat wave for at least the next two days.

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