85 die of heat stress as mercury soars in India

85 die of heat stress as mercury soars in India
# 01 June 2024 14:20 (UTC +04:00)

At least 85 people died of suspected heat stress and related issues in India's Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in 24 hours, senior officials in these regions said on Friday, amid an unforgiving heat spell that has pushed temperatures to unprecedented levels in many of these regions, APA reports citing Hindustan Times.

The maximum number of casualties was reported in Odisha, which has been reeling under intense heatwave conditions for the past few days, exacerbated further by high humidity that pushed the index to north of 50°C.

In the eastern state, a total of 46 people died of suspected heat stress in a span of 24 hours, prompting the state government to call for an inquiry by senior officials in the health department.

According to officials, five deaths were reported in Rourkela town of Sundargarh, Sambalpur and Bolangir districts on Friday.

On Thursday, the officials added, 41 people died due to similar reasons. In Rourkela government hospital, eight people were declared dead on arrival between 1.30pm and 8pm on Thursday while two more died shortly after they arrived.

Director of public health, Nilakantha Mishra, said though the exact cause of the deaths can be ascertained only after a post-mortem examination, prima facie it appeared that they occurred as the deceased were working outdoors in the heat during peak hours.

“Bodies of people who died due to suspected heat stroke will be sent for post-mortem,” he said.

Several places in the state on Friday recorded temperatures above 45°C. While Sambalpur was the hottest at 45.2 °C, Jharsuguda recorded 44.6°C and Hirakud 44.5°C. The humidity levels soared past 80% in several coastal areas, according to data provided by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

With the weather body forecasting continued heatwave conditions until June 3, special relief commissioner Satyabrata Sahu urged residents, particularly those living in undivided Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Bolangir, Kalahandi, and Boudh districts, to stay indoors during the peak hours. Coastal regions are also expected to experience hot and humid weather conditions, he said.

Mishra said authorities have been directed to reserve six beds in each community health centre and one primary health centre in each district for treating heat stress and related issues.

In Bihar, at least 16 people, including polling personnel. died and several people were hospitalised during the given period, as extreme temperatures continued to disrupt the day-to-day lives of the people in the state.

The Lok Sabha elections are currently underway in the state and is slated to conclude on Saturday. Most of the deceased, officials said, were from Bhojpur, Rohtas, Kaimur and Aurangabad.

The state is also reeling under sizzling heat as the mercury crossed 43°C at several places. On Friday, Aurangabad was the hottest at 44°C.

Due to the heatwave conditions, all schools, coaching institutes and anganwadi centres have been shut till June 8.

A statement issued by chief minister Nitish Kumar’s office said he has directed district magistrates (DMs) to take preventative measures to tackle the situation. “There should be adequate arrangements of drinking water at various places in all districts. The public should be made aware of the symptoms of heatwaves and their prevention. Provide immediate medical facilities to everyone in case of illness. People affected by heatwaves should be treated immediately in hospitals/medical colleges,” the statement quoted him as saying.

Four people also died of heat stress in Jharkhand, prompting officials to direct district hospitals and other medical facilities to set aside air-conditioned rooms and empty beds to tackle such cases.

“Four people – three in Palamu and one in Jamshedpur – died of heatstroke in Jharkhand. These deaths did not occur in hospitals,” Dr Alok Trivedi, mission director, National Health Mission (Jharkhand), told PTI.

A majority of the 24 districts in the eastern state recorded temperatures above 40°C, with the mercury shooting above 47°C in places like Daltonganj and Garhwa.

While four deaths were reported in Rajasthan on Friday, at least 15 polling personnel died in Uttar Pradesh, where the Lok Sabha elections are also underway.

Two people on election duty died and nine taken ill as they were being dispatched to their polling assignment locations in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadra district, district magistrate Chandra Vijay Singh said.

While the exact cause of death is yet to be ascertained, Singh said the symptoms appeared to be that of heat stroke.

Likewise, 13 poll personnel deployed in the northern state’s Mirzapur died following high fever and high blood pressure. The deaths were reported amid high temperatures in the region for the past several days.

The deceased comprise seven home guard jawans, three sanitation workers, one clerk posted at the chief medical officer’s office, one chakbandi adhikaari (consolidation officer), and one peon in the home guard team, Dr Raj Bahadur Kamal, principal of Maa Vindhyavasini Autonomous State Medical College, told PTI.

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