India disaster: Heatwave could kill more than coronavirus as temperatures hit 50C

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At least 3,500 people have died from heat since 2015. The country suffers from severe water shortages and millions of people do not have access to running water. In India, very few people in the country have access to air conditioning and many have died of exhaustion as they walk in the heat.

Temperatures have risen to 47.6C in the capital of New Delhi and up to 50C in the desert state of Rajasthan.

Dr Dileep Mavalankar said: “More people will die in the heatwave than corona when we look at mortality rates in previous incidents.

“The thing is that we are not measuring all causes of mortalities so we are not monitoring how many people are dying from heat-induced problems.”

Around 40 million migrant workers were left stranded after the lockdown began on March 25 and many have been forced to walk hundreds of kilometres without shelter or access to water to get home.

Many of the informal workers lost their jobs in cities and retuned home on foot.

Chinmay Tumbe, Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, said: “It is tough to get an exact number but a lot of people could have died walking back and the heat contributed to their exhaustion”.

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Coronavirus has meant the medical system in India has become completely overwhelmed.

Dr. Yogesh Jain, a rural public health expert, said: “This year, in the wake of Covid-19, the health systems are more unprepared than other years, for heat strokes and for other seasonal problems such as snake bites.

“We will surely lose more people due to heat-related illness this year, not due to unusual heat but due to collateral damage due to Covid-19.”

India is also dealing with the worst locust invasion in decades, which has threatened the country’s food supply.


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The locusts have already destroyed nearly 125,000 acres of crops.

With regards to COVID-19, India is among the top ten countries worldwide in terms of total reported infections.

Doctors in the capital, Delhi, have said they are concerned about a rise in COVID-19 admissions and a possible shortage of hospital beds.

KL Gurjar, deputy director of India’s Locust Warning Organisation, said: “We are battling a major locust attack from across the border.

“This is the biggest invasion in nearly three decades. The swarms are very big and they have migrated from across the border after breeding a month earlier than we were expecting.

“We are lucky that there is no crop in the fields now. But the locusts eat up all the green vegetation, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and plants.”

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