Heat wave grips North India, 44.9 degrees in Delhi


New Delhi/Chandigarh : The Indian capital recorded a scorching 44.9 degrees Celsius Saturday, the highest this year, while Hissar in Haryana recorded a five-year high of 47.9 degrees, and the situation is only expected to get worse as most of north India reeled under an unrelenting heat wave.

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The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said Saturday was the hottest day of 2007 in Delhi – the mercury touching 5 degrees above normal. The minimum was 32.8 degrees Celsius – also 5 degrees above normal. IMD said it could be 46 degrees Sunday.

The temperature recorded at Delhi's Palam airport area was 46.1 degrees Celsius.

Met officials have no cheer to offer. No rain or dust storms, which tend to bring down the temperature, are expected, at least not till the middle of next week.

"We generally see a spell of heat wave conditions in June or early July but this time the first part of June has been getting hotter and hotter. The spell may continue till the middle of next week," IMD director S.C. Bhan said.

"Since the onset of June, Delhi had not witnessed any rain or dust storm. This could be blamed on the hot and humid conditions," Bhan told IANS.

Delhi was not the only place to bear the brunt. The situation across northern India was no better.

Hissar broke a five-year record, and the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in neighbouring Punjab saw the mercury touching 47.8 degrees Celsius, the highest in the past decade.

Two unidentified monks were found dead, presumably due to the heat wave, in Bathinda town of south Punjab, while an electricity department lineman also died due to heat in Ambala in Haryana.

Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, recorded 45 degrees – the highest temperature in over a decade. The previous high it recorded was 45.6 degrees on June 8, 1995.

Punjab's industrial hub Ludhiana recorded 46.6 degrees while Patiala city recorded 45.7 degrees.

Temperatures at most places in Punjab and Haryana hovered five to eight degrees above normal.

Elsewhere in north India, Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, suffered 44.6 degrees.

Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh reported 45.2 degrees Celsius, Patiala in Punjab 44.8 degrees and Jaipur 44 degrees. Lucknow was slightly lucky, at 41.2 degrees.

"The heat is unbearable. It's almost impossible to move out of home," cried Sarita Paul, a student in Delhi. It was a sentiment widely shared by others in the city – and elsewhere.

"I have decided not to get out of the house without a wet towel. Only cold coffee and several glasses of lemon juice are keeping me alive," added Paul.

Santosh Patra, a scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in the national capital, is a victim of sunstroke. After being advised rest for three days, he now moves out only with an ice bag.

Auto-rickshaw driver Badrish Jha has decided to remain under shade, even if it means losing much of the day's earnings.

"I am not carrying passengers between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. It is too hot. There is no point earning money by putting my health in danger," he said.

Nidhi Saxena, who works in a private firm in Chandigarh, said: "We had a harrowing time in our office. Due to power failure, the ACs did not work and it became suffocating and unbearable. I wish it was a holiday today."

In Agra, the Taj Mahal and other monuments had few visitors. An American tourist told IANS in the city that he was surviving on mineral water.

Weather officials say Sunday will only be hotter.

Apart from the 46 degrees Celsius predicted for Delhi, in Chandigarh the mercury is expected to touch 45 degrees, in Jaipur over 44 degrees and in Lucknow it could rise by two degrees to 43 degrees Celsius.

At the same time, however, parts of India are enjoying monsoon rains.

The southwest monsoon has advanced further over the Bay of Bengal, bringing more rains to parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim.

Guwahati recorded a whopping 50 mm rainfall from Friday afternoon till Saturday evening. It also rained in parts of Orissa and Bihar.

The monsoon reached the Andaman in the second week of May and touched the Kerala coast May 28, three days ahead of its usual schedule.

But the monsoon clouds are far away from the national capital for now. Delhi generally gets 55 mm rainfall in June.

Across Delhi and other northern cities, people preferred to stay put in their homes Saturday. Many people could be seen covering their heads with caps or wet towels.

"I am from Bihar and I have never experienced such heat," said Ashok Kumar, a bank employee.

Shops selling fruit juice, sugarcane juice and lime and soda did roaring business.

"I have been drinking mango shakes and sugarcane juice every day," said Subhas Khare, a resident of Munirka in southwest Delhi.