IN IMAGES, IN PICTURES. India, Thailand, Bangladesh… Asia crushed by an endless extreme heat wave

Temperature records have been broken in recent weeks in South and Southeast Asia, pushing governments to take drastic measures, particularly in India, where general elections are being disrupted.


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A woman covers her face to protect herself from the heatwave.  The temperature reached 41°C in Kolkata, India, on April 25, 2024. (SAMIR JANA / HINDUSTAN TIMES / SHUTT / SIPA)

Part of Asia is being crushed by a brutal heat wave, which has disrupted the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people for a month. These extreme heat conditions have affected South and Southeast Asia since the beginning of April. The months preceding the monsoon, or rainy season in the region, are generally warm, but temperatures in 2024 are well above average. “Asia is warming faster than the global average”also alerted the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in a report published on April 23 and based on 2023.

40°C was largely exceeded in 26 provinces of Thailand (a third of the country) in April, according to the Bloomberg news agency. This month is considered the hottest and driest in the region, but this year, the heatwave is exacerbated by the El Niño climatic phenomenon. In Bangkok, the temperature felt (calculated according to an index taking into account wind or humidity in addition to temperature) for example, exceeded 52°C on April 25.

Men unload a piece of ice from a truck at a market on May 1, 2024 in Bangkok, Thailand.  (LAUREN DECICCA/GETTY IMAGES)

This heat wave led to record electricity consumption, intensified by the use of fans or air conditioning. Since the start of the year, extreme temperatures have already killed thirty people, according to data published in mid-April by the Thai Ministry of Health. This is already almost as much as for the whole of 2023 (37 heat deaths recorded).

“Please refrain from spending time outside.”

In search of water, several elephants ventured out of the jungle onto a golf course in the Thai capital, as shown in the following photo, taken on March 22.

A wild elephant walks on the Royal Hills golf course in Bangkok on March 22, 2024. Several elephants ventured out of the jungle in search of water.  (SOPA IMAGES / LIGHTROCKET / GETTY IMAGES)

Millions of Bangkok residents were asked to stay at home on Wednesday, May 1, due to a heat index deemed “extremely dangerous”.“Please refrain from spending time outside.”urged the Bangkok municipality on Facebook.

This heatwave which has lasted for weeks is also affecting the Philippines, which recorded a peak of more than 40°C on Wednesday. This situation forced local authorities to suspend classes in thousands of schools. The temperature variedbetween 42°C and 51°C in 38 cities “on alert”, including the capital Manila, according to the national meteorological agency.

Elections disrupted in India

The extreme heat wave is disrupting the holding of general elections in India, which began on April 19 and which should theoretically end in early June. Turnout in the first phase of voting fell by almost four points, to 66%, compared to the 2019 election, India Today reports. In its forecast for the April-June summer season, released on April 1, the Indian Meteorological Department warned of extreme heat and prolonged heat waves “in most parts of the country”.

Women draw water from a well during the heatwave in Kasara, India, May 1, 2024. (INDRANIL ADITYA / NURPHOTO / AFP)

Concerned by this low participation rate at the polls, the Indian Election Commission has formed a working group which must examine “the impact of heat waves and humidity five days before each voting phase”reports the newspaper The Business Lineciting the commission.

A man carries air coolers on April 10, 2024 in Noida, India.  (SUNIL GHOSH/HINDUSTAN TIMES/GETTY IMAGES)

One of the leaders of the ruling party fainted during a public meeting on April 24, while campaigning in the state of Maharashtra. Nitin Gadkari, road transport minister and a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, collapsed on stage, as recounted The Hindu. “I felt uncomfortable because of the heat during the meeting,” reacted the minister on the social network X, adding that he had recovered and would be able to continue his campaign obligations.

In Bangladesh, prayers for rain

In Bangladesh, a country of 171 million inhabitants, average maximum temperatures were four to five degrees higher than the average of the last thirty years. As a result, the country’s meteorological service renewed its heatwave alert for several days on Thursday, May 2. According to local authorities, at least seven people have died since the beginning of April due to this extreme heat.

A rickshaw driver washes his face by the roadside during a hot day in Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 15, 2024. (STR / NURPHOTO / AFP)

These climatic conditions forced the country’s High Court of Justice to pass an order on April 29 to close all primary and secondary schools and madrasas (religious schools) until Sunday, May 5. This decision forced 33 million children to stay at home, according to a press release from the NGO Save The Children.

Worshipers line up to pray for rain as extreme heat hits Bangladesh, April 26, 2024. (ISTIYAK AHMED SRABON / SOLE / SIPA)

According to meteorologist Muhammad Abul Kalam Mallik, Bangladesh has not experienced such a heatwave since records began in 1948. “This is a record in terms of duration and coverage area in the country”he assured AFP. Last Wednesday, thousands of Muslim worshipers gathered at mosques in cities and countryside across Bangladesh to pray for rain.

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