Minister blames India's heatwave on climate change, as death toll reaches 2,500

Death toll has continued to rise since extreme temperatures began in mid-April

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The Independent Online

A heatwave which has claimed the lives of up to 2,500 people in India, and the subsequent delayed monsoon rains, are the results of climate change, the country's Minister for Earth Sciences has said.

The death toll in the country has continued to rise since extreme temperatures began in mid-April.

Meanwhile, cooling monsoon rains, expected to bring relief to those experiencing temperatures of up to 47C, have been delayed by at least five days, it has been reported.

Earth Sciences Minister Harsh Vardhan has now blamed the heatwave, the second deadliest in the country's history, on climate change, Reuters has reported.

A traffic police woman drinks water as commuters drive along a road on a hot summer day in Chandigarh (REUTERS/Ajay Verma)

"Let us not fool ourselves that there is no connection between the unusual number of deaths from the ongoing heat wave and the certainty of another failed monsoon," he said.

"It's not just an unusually hot summer, it is climate change."

While it was hoped thundershowers would bring relief to India's scorched southern states over the weekend, only limited relief was brought by the rain that fell.

On Saturday and Sunday, temperatures in the worst affected states of Andra Pradesh and Telangana ranged between 45C and 47C – roughly 3C to 7C higher than normal, according to the meteorological centre in the Telangana state capital of Hyderabad.

The southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh has accounted for about two-thirds of the 2,500 people who have died in the current heatwave, Reuters has reported.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year warned that India – the world's third highest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the US – was at risk of experiencing more frequent freak weather patterns, which could result in huge loss of life and crops.

Last week it was reported that the temperatures were causing water shortages in thousands of villages.

Many farmers and construction workers however were continuing to work outdoors, despite reports of scorched crops and dying wildlife, Associated Press reported.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP