Heatwave kills dozens of homeless in India's capital, group says

Heatwave in New Delhi

By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

(Reuters) -The heatwave gripping northern India has killed nearly 200 homeless people in New Delhi over the last week, a group dedicated to helping the homeless said on Thursday, as the country grapples with record high summer temperatures.

As many as 52 bodies were brought to hospitals in the past two days, the Times of India reported on Thursday, adding that most of them were poor people who lived and worked in the open.

A total of 192 homeless people died in New Delhi between June 11 and June 19, according to government figures shared by non-profit organisation Centre for Holistic Development, higher than in previous years.

"The poorest bear the cost of such climate change. Most of these people live below flyovers and out in the open and have no protection against the heat. These are mostly heatwave deaths," Sunil Kumar Aledia, who runs CHD, told Reuters.

India has recorded more than 40,000 suspected heatstroke cases this summer and at least 110 confirmed deaths between March 1 and June 18, when northwest and eastern India recorded more than twice the usual number of heatwave days.

"A prolonged summer should be classified as a natural disaster," The Hindu newspaper said in an editorial on Thursday, pointing to water shortages and record power demand.

The health ministry ordered federal and state institutions to ensure immediate attention to patients, while hospitals were directed to make more beds available.

The weather office has forecast above normal temperatures for this month as well, and Delhi saw its warmest night in over 50 years on Wednesday, with a minimum temperature of 35.2 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), data from the weather department showed.

Temperatures, however, dropped nearly 6 degrees to 37 degrees Celcius (98.6 F) on Thursday in New Delhi after rain brought respite from the heat, weather department data showed.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Stephen Coates and Miral Fahmy)