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India bakes as mercury nears 50 degrees Celsius

NEW DELHI: Temperatures pushed towards 50 degrees Celsius across much of India yesterday as an unrelenting heatwave triggered warnings of water shortages and left locals fearing for their livelihoods. The western, desert state of Rajasthan recorded 49.6 Celsius on Friday – India’s hottest day of the year so far, the weather department said. Water and health warnings have been issued with temperatures hovering around 47 Celsius across many western, northern and southern states, with no letup in sight for at least two more days.

In the capital, New Delhi, the Indian Meteorological Department issued a red alert extreme weather warning as temperatures hit 47 Celsius. It said residents should not go out during the hottest hours of the day. Several cities have reported fears of water shortages as lakes and rivers start to dry up. In the western state of Maharashtra, farmers struggled to find water for thirsty animals and crops. “We have to source water tankers from nearby villages as water reserves, lakes and rivers have dried up,” said Rajesh Chandrakant, a resident of Beed, one of the worst-hit districts. “Farmers only get water every three days for their livestock.”

Raghunath Tonde, a farmer with a family of seven, said the area has suffered worsening shortages for five years. “There is no drinking water available for days on end and we get one tanker every three days for the entire village,” Tonde told AFP. “We are scared for our lives and livelihood.” he added. The Hindustan Times newspaper said many Beed residents had stopped washing and cleaning clothes due to the water shortage.

More than 40 percent of India faces drought this year, experts from Gandhinagar city’s Indian Institute of Technology, warned last month. The annual monsoon – which normally brings much needed rain to South Asia – is running a week behind schedule and is only expected to hit India’s southern tip on June 6, the weather department said. And private forecaster Skymet has said there will be less rain than average this year. The Indian peninsula has seen a drastic change in rainfall patterns over the past decade, marked by frequent droughts, floods and sudden storms. – AFP

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