126 degrees: New Delhi sweats during hottest day ever recorded

New Delhi on Wednesday recorded the highest temperature ever measured (126 degrees Fahrenheit, or 52.3 degrees Celsius), leaving residents of the Indian capital sweltering in a heat wave that has kept temperatures in several Indian states well above 110 degrees for weeks.

In New Delhi, where leaving home was like entering an oven, officials feared the power grid was overwhelmed and the city’s water supply might need rationing.

The past 12 months have been the hottest ever recorded on the planet, and cities like Miami are experiencing extreme heat even before summer arrives. Scientists said this week that the average person on Earth had experienced 26 more days of abnormally high temperatures in the past year than would have been the case without human-induced climate change.

Although late afternoon dust storms and a light drizzle in New Delhi brought hopes of a respite on Wednesday, the Mungeshpur weather station, northwest of the capital, reported a record of 126 degrees around 2:00 p.m.: 30, as reported by Dr Kuldeep Srivastava, a scientist at the Delhi Regional Meteorological Centre, said it was the highest temperature ever recorded by the automatic weather monitoring system installed in 2010.

For weeks now, temperatures in several northern Indian states have exceeded 110 degrees and hospitals have reported an increase in heat stroke cases. Hundreds of forest fires have been recorded in the Himalayan states.

The heat wave has coincided with the campaign for India’s general elections, the last phase of voting for which will take place on June 1. Candidates, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition leaders, have continued to hold large public rallies, and Nitin Gadkari, a cabinet minister running for re-election, fainted from the heat while speaking at a rally.

On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi, the opposition leader, took a break during a speech to pour water from a bottle on his head. “It’s pretty hot, isn’t it?” he said.

To help conserve water amid extreme heat, Atishi Marlena, Delhi’s water minister, announced the deployment of 200 teams to combat waste and misuse. Fines will be imposed for activities such as washing cars with hoses, “overflowing water tanks” and “using domestic water for construction or commercial purposes,” she said.

The extent to which the heat has affected daily life in the Indian capital was reflected in a consumer dispute court’s stay order last week, as the most intense period of the heat wave began.

The presiding officer, Suresh Kumar Gupta, complained that the room was not air-conditioned and the water supply in the bathrooms was also affected.

“It is too hot in the courtroom, causing sweating, making it difficult to hear the arguments,” he said in the order. “In these circumstances, arguments cannot be heard, so the case is adjourned.”

Jitender Singh, 42, a rickshaw driver in the eastern part of the city, said business was down by about a third as people avoided leaving their homes. He said he and his colleagues got sick frequently.

“But we must take the path to support our families,” he added.

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