Maharashtra’s health official says the deaths were due to “suspicious heat stroke”, with many reported in rural areas.
India’s western state of Maharashtra has recorded 25 heatstroke deaths since late March, the highest number in five years, with more deaths likely in other parts of the country. suffocating in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.
Scientists have linked the early onset of a hot summer to climate change, saying more than a billion people in India and neighboring Pakistan were somehow vulnerable to extreme heat.
With refreshing monsoon rains only expected in the next month and power outages becoming more frequent in parts of India, even households that can afford air conditioners will have little respite for the next few weeks.
Many of the deaths in Maharashtra occurred in the more rural areas of India’s richest state.
“These are presumed heat stroke deaths,” Pradeep Awate, a Maharashtra health official, told the Reuters news agency.
India is the world’s second largest wheat producer, but the heat is set to wither this year’s crop, after five consecutive years of record harvests.
As power demand rises, generating companies face massive coal shortages and are beseeched by the government to increase imports.
India recorded its warmest March in more than a century, with the highest temperature across the country rising to 33.1 degrees Celsius, almost 1.86 degrees above normal, according to the India Meteorological Department.
Many parts of northern, western and eastern India saw temperatures exceed 40°C last month.
In the eastern state of Odisha, authorities said a 64-year-old man died of heat stroke on April 25 and hundreds of others received medical treatment.
In Subarnapur, the hottest district in Odisha, a maximum temperature of 43.2°C was recorded on Tuesday.
“It’s very hot,” said Mohana Mahakur, a resident of Subarnapur. “Fan, air cooler – nothing works.”