India’s roads melt as record-breaking heat wave continues

Temperatures hit a record-breaking 51C in the city of Phalodi, Rajasthan on Friday

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The Independent Online

India’s on-going heat wave, which set a new record for the country’s highest-ever recorded temperature last week, is melting tarmac on the roads of some of India's busiest cities.

Residents in the city of Valsad, Gujarat, had to fight melting tar while crossing the road as temperatures rose to 36C.

Video footage from NDTV shows people becoming trapped on a melting road surface as their shoes stick in the softening tarmac.

Abandoned sandals are seen strewn across the sticky roadway and a woman falls over as she attempts to carry a heavy bag over the road.

Temperatures in parts of western India exceeded 50C on Friday. The record – a scorching 51C – was set in the city of Phalodi, in the western state of Rajasthan. The previous high was 50.6C in 1956 in the city of Alwar, also in Rajasthan.

Indian weather officials have warned of more frequent heat waves as the scorching temperatures cause an increase in dehydration and heatstroke cases, as well as triggering widespread power cuts as surging demand overwhelms supply grids.

Hundreds of people have died as crops have withered in the fields in more than 13 states, forcing tens of thousands of small farmers to abandon their land and move into the cities. Others have killed themselves rather than go to live in urban shanty towns.

Rivers, lakes and dams have dried up in many parts of the western states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat. 

The heat wave has struck as India contends with a major drought and worsening water shortages that have affected around 330 million people.

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"We are praying to the gods for an early monsoon so that people get some relief, as the heat has taken a toll on our bodies," said Neeraj Kumar, a resident of the northern industrial city of Kanpur. "We are not even able to do our daily chores properly."

May and June are typically India’s hottest months and temperatures regularly exceed 40C in the run-up to the monsoon rains, but the severity of this year’s heat had been unprecedented.

"There are usually thunderstorms this time of year, but these rains have not been occurring," said BP Yadav, head of the national weather forecasting centre of the India Meteorological Department.

"Hot winds have been blowing in from Afghanistan and Pakistan, leading to these extreme temperatures."

The heat is expected ease with the arrival of clouds and light showers this week, said Mr Yadav, however his office forecast a return to the high temperatures in late May or early June.

Reasons for the excessively high temperatures range from global warming to greater urbanisation, Mr Yadav said.

The number of heat waves has nearly doubled in the 10 years to 2010 from earlier decades, the meteorological office said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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