Record Heat Wave in India Sends Temperatures to a Scorching 123 Degrees Fahrenheit

Road markings in India melting due to high temperatures. Picture: EPA/HARISH TYAGI

Road markings in India melting due to high temperatures. Picture: EPA/HARISH TYAGI

Two weeks ago in Phalodi, a city in Rajasthan, India, temperatures climbed higher than they've been since 1956. Thermostats hit 123.8F (or 51C), and although the region usually experiences temperatures in the high 40sC during the hot season, getting above 50C is highly unusual. 

Picture: AP/Tsering Topgyal

Picture: AP/Tsering Topgyal

While numbers are not confirmed, authorities have speculated that at least 1400 people have died during this year's heatwave. During the heatwave of 2015, several people died mainly due to dehydration. Some areas of India have banned daytime cooking fires in order to limit the risk of causing larger fires. 

Children staying cool in a bucket of water. Picture: REUTERS/Amit Dave

Children staying cool in a bucket of water. Picture: REUTERS/Amit Dave

Due to the rising temperatures, all schools in Delhi were ordered to take a mandatory summer vacation that started on May 11. Many end-of-term tests will need to be rescheduled as a result of the sudden school closings. Most government-run schools in India do not have the infrastructure to run during such intense heatwaves - they have no fans, backup electricity, or drinking water.

Woman protecting herself from heat stroke. Picture: REUTERS/Ajay Verma

Woman protecting herself from heat stroke. Picture: REUTERS/Ajay Verma

The current conditions in India speak to a larger narrative of the disastrous effects of climate change. Due to drought and weak monsoons for the past two years, people living in rural parts of India have been forced to migrate to cities in search of water. Water scarcity throughout the country has caused political tensions, especially in North India where different states have battled over water rights and river-control rights for years. Earlier in 2016, a group of rioters in the northern state of Haryana cut off the water supply to Delhi until the government met their demands to change their caste status. 

Written by Rajmani Sinclair, May 31, 2016