A heatwave in India has left 166 people dead in just a few days, according to state officials.
Most of the heat-related deaths have been in Uttar Pradesh (119), with the rest in neighbouring Bihar state (47).
While northern India is known for sweltering heat in the summer months, temperatures over the past week have been consistently above average, with highs reported of 43.5C (110F).
India’s criteria for declaring a heatwave is when temperatures are at least 4.5C (40F) higher than normal – or above 45C (113F).
The UK declares a heatwave when temperatures are above 25C (77F) for three days in a row.
Heatwave warnings have been issued in the region for the “past few days”, Atul Kumar Singh, a scientist at the Indian Meteorological Department, said.
Government officials warned people about the extreme heat on Sunday.
The largest hospital in the Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh, which is 600 miles south-east of New Delhi, is overrun with patients suffering from heat exhaustion.
Its morgue is overwhelmed and families have been asked to take the bodies of their loved ones home.
Power cuts leaving hospitals without air conditioning
The situation has been made worse by regular power cuts in the region, leaving people with no water, fans or air conditioners.
Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath said the state was taking measures to ensure an uninterrupted power supply.
But inside Ballia district hospital, there are no functioning air conditioners and malfunctioning temporary cooling units.
Scenes were described as similar to during the coronavirus pandemic – with more severe heat cases being transferred to hospitals in bigger cities such as Varanasi.
“All our staff has been here for three days straight and are completely overworked,” Dr Aditya Singh, an emergency medical officer said.
“So many people are dying from the heat that we are not getting a minute’s time to rest. On Sunday I carried 26 dead bodies,” Jitendra Kumar Yadav, a hearse driver from a town 68 miles from Ballia, added.
India has been warned by climate experts that it needs to better prepare for more regular heatwaves.
A study by the academic group World Weather Attribution found the last heat wave in April was made 30 times more likely by climate change.
The start of June has been the hottest on record, with global average air temperatures more than 1.5C hotter than before industrial times for the first time ever.
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