Mercury hits 50 as heatwave complicates India's coronavirus fight

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NEW DELHI: India is wilting under a heatwave, with temperatures in places reaching 50 deg C and the capital enduring its hottest May day in nearly two decades.

Scorching weather is a growing menace in the world's second-most populous nation, and the United Nations warned this week that the coronavirus pandemic increased the associated health risks.

Indian meteorological officials said Churu in the northern state of Rajasthan was the hottest place on record on Tuesday, at 50 deg C, while parts of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh states sweltered in the high 40s.

Parts of the capital, New Delhi, recorded the hottest May day in 18 years with the mercury hitting 47.6 deg C.

The hot spell is projected to scorch northern India for several more days, the Meteorological Department said late Tuesday, "with severe heat wave conditions in isolated pockets".

No deaths have been reported so far this year, but last year the government said the heat had killed 3,500 people since 2015. There have been fewer fatalities in recent years.

The country of 1.3 billion people also suffers from severe water shortages with tens of millions lacking running water.

Parts of Delhi and elsewhere regularly see scuffles when tankers arrive to deliver water. Last year, Chennai made international headlines when the southern city ran out of water.

India now has the 10th highest number of coronavirus cases globally, climbing above 150,000 yesterday with almost 4,500 deaths. Case numbers are soaring in Delhi and Mumbai.

The UN's weather agency, the World Meteorological Organisation, on Tuesday urged governments to make plans to keep people safe during heatwaves without spreading the virus. - AFP