Nikita Richardson
May 28, 2015 1:31 pm

While here in the United States, Texas and Oklahoma are facing heavy rainfall, flooding, and tornadoes, those living on the other side of the globe in India continue to battle a crippling heat wave. Right now across India, temperatures are soaring into the 110s and low 120s and people are being advised to remain indoors between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.. The poor and elderly are most direly impacted by the infernal heat, though the historic temperatures are affecting nearly all billion-plus people in the country. Here is a rundown of the crisis and what you need to know about it.

When did the heat wave start?

This particular bout began around May 18, but typically, India’s heat wave season begins in March, just as much of the Northern Hemisphere is shaking off the chill of winter. The stifling temperatures run through June with May marking the hottest month of year for the subcontinent. The last time India experienced a heat wave this severe was in 2010.

How many people have died? 

Estimates are putting the death toll at nearly 1,500, with many victims — most of them being elderly, day laborers, or the homeless — succumbing to heat stroke, which is characterized by a fever of at least 105.1˚F along with disorientation and a lack of sweating. These symptoms eventually lead to unconsciousness, organ failure, and death. The best ways to avoid this are remaining indoors during peak hours, staying hydrated, and covering your head with a hat if you must go outside.

Which regions are seeing the worst of it?

The majority of deaths have occurred in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where more than 1,000 and more than 300 people have died, respectively.

How are Indian officials dealing with the crisis?

Unsurprisingly, it is difficult to govern a nation of more than 1.2 billion people and government workers are struggling to get residents to heed their warnings. Currently, they’re encouraging Indians to stay hydrated (even providing water and buttermilk along roadways), avoid going outdoors during the warmest periods of the day, and to cover themselves if they have to brave the temperatures. Warnings are frequently being broadcast across media outlets.

Meanwhile, the country’s infrastructure is suffering as well: Asphalt on roadways is melting while some regions are experiencing frequent blackouts as air conditioner use overtaxes the electrical grid.

When is the heat wave expected to end? 

The good news: India is as well-known for its monsoons as it is for its heat waves and monsoon season is right around the corner. The affected southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana may see heavy rainfall as early as May 31. Meanwhile, cities and villages located further north probably won’t see precipitation until early July. While forecasters worry that rainfall may not be as heavy as usual, the country’s water reserves appear to be in relatively good shape and should survive the brutal temperatures until the rains come.

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