Millions at risk as India's severe heatwave exposes cooling gaps

(Reuters, 24 May 2022) As India and Pakistan struggled to cope with soaring temperatures this month, experts warn lack of access to cooling tech like AC, fridges and fans will cost lives and livelihoods.

As the scorching sun beat down on his fruit cart, Mohammad Ikrar dreaded another day of tossing out dozens of rotting mangoes and melons - a regular practice as India grappled with an unprecedented heatwave this month.

The 38-year-old does not own a refrigerator, meaning his fruit quickly spoils. By the end of the day, any leftover produce is usually only good to be fed to passing stray cows.

Since April, Ikrar said he has lost up to 3,000 rupees ($39) a week - nearly half of his average weekly earnings.

"This heat is torturous. But if I want to buy an AC (air conditioner) or fridge one day, I have to do this," said Ikrar, wearing a full sleeve shirt and white headwrap to keep cool in the 44 degrees Celsius (111.2F) heat.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms in the New Delhi area early on Monday brought the scorching temperatures down to about 20C, with Mahesh Palawat, vice president of Skymet, a private weather forecasting agency saying in a social media post that the heatwave would not come back "anytime soon" in the region.

But temperatures are set to soar again to about 40C later in the week, according to India's weather office.

Monday's storm knocked out power in large parts of the capital city - a problem Ikrar has become accustomed to this summer.

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Reuters, 24 May 2022: Millions at risk as India's severe heatwave exposes cooling gaps