India heatwave breaks as showers provide brief respite

But forecasters say that the record hot spell is not over yet

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Indians on Thursday experienced a brief respite from the sweltering heat that has gripped the nation for weeks after large parts of the country’s north witnessed pre-monsoon showers.

In capital Delhi and nearby cities, overnight gusty winds and showers brought down the mercury to 37°C from a high of nearly 44°C at the beginning of the week.

Delhi recorded its second hottest April in almost 75 years, with average temperatures for the month exceeding 40°C.

But the brief showers on Wednesday night broke the weeks-long dry spell, bringing welcome respite for residents.

“It is a pleasant day today. After two months, we are not using the air-conditioner during the day. The heat was unbearable but thanks to the brief rainfall, we have got some relief,” Nikita Chaudhary, a resident of Faridabad. a Delhi satellite city, told The National.

The India Meteorological Department has predicted isolated showers and thunderstorms in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, among other states in the next two days.

Western Rajasthan, known as the desert state, is expected to experience dust storms and thunderstorms, with winds gusting up to 50 kilometres an hour under the influence of a western disturbance ­­— the pre-monsoon weather system that brings moisture-rich clouds to the subcontinent from the Mediterranean Sea.

The weather department has also issued an alert for cyclones in Odisha state, with a wind speed of up to 75 kph on Sunday.

The eastern state on the coast of Bay of Bengal had been sizzling, with 43°C recorded last week. The weather department had earlier issued a yellow alert for thunder and lightning, with gusty winds in the state.

The 33.1°C recorded in March was the hottest recorded since 1901.

The intense heat caused several rubbish dumps blazes across the country, including one still burning in Delhi. More than 300 forest fires were reported at the end of April.

Weather experts say that respite from the heat will be short-lived as the mercury rises from next week, with another heatwave in isolated pockets of the country.

A van drives past a raging fire at the Bhalswa landfill, in New Delhi, India. AP

“The worst is still not over,” Mahesh Palawat, vice president of private weather forecaster Skymet Weather, told The National.

“We have seen pre-monsoon activities in the first week of May and the temperature dropped significantly, but it is expected to continue for another 24 hours and thereafter dry and hot north-westerly winds will blow across the north-west and central part of the country.”

Mr Palawat predicted another spell of heat in isolated pockets of Vidarbha region of Maharashtra in the next 24 hours and Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Haryana and Delhi on Sunday.

He said the phenomenon was normal for the months of May and June.

As fears of another heatwave hover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who returned from a three-nation European tour on Thursday, chaired a review meeting on preparedness to deal with it and the coming monsoon season.

More than 30 people have died in the heat in recent weeks in Maharashtra and West Bengal.

Heatwaves killed about 6,167 people in India over eight years to 2018.

Updated: May 05, 2022, 4:11 PM