AP PHOTOS: Weeks of sweltering heat scorch northern India


BIKANER, India — People in northern India have been struggling with an unrelenting, weekslong heat wave that has forced schools to close in some places and raised the risk of heatstrokes for laborers working outdoors.

India’s weather department expects the high temperatures to persist across the region for the next few days and has put several states on high alert.

Some parts of India’s capital reported up to 49.9 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday, with the weather bureau saying the temperatures were 9 degrees higher than expected. The nearby states of Punjab and Haryana also saw temperatures soar, with one place in Rajasthan topping the 50 C (122 F) mark.

India declares a heat wave whenever temperatures are above 45 C (113 F).

The extreme heat in northern India has coincided with a 6-week general election, increasing health risks as people wait in long lines to cast their vote. The voting ends on Saturday.

The sizzling temperatures are also taking a toll on animals, putting them at risk of dehydration and heatstroke.

Sitaram, an animal conservationist in the city of Bikaner in Rajasthan who goes by one name, said that endangered chinkaras — also known as Indian gazelle — are facing a shortage for water. His rescue center has been looking after the sick and injured chinkaras and providing them shelter and water to beat the heat.

April, May and June are always hot in most parts of India before monsoon rains bring cooler temperatures. But extreme heat is fast becoming a public health crisis in India, with the warm weather getting more intense in the past decade and typically accompanied by severe water shortages.

Tens of millions of India’s 1.4 billion people lack running water.

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