India bakes as mercury nears 50 deg C

Indian youths take relief from the heat at the Ana Sagar lake in Ajmer, in the Indian state of Rajasthan on May 31, 2019.
Indian youths take relief from the heat at the Ana Sagar lake in Ajmer, in the Indian state of Rajasthan on May 31, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Temperatures pushed towards 50 deg C across much of India on Saturday (June 1) as an unrelenting heatwave triggered warnings of water shortages and left locals fearing for their livelihoods.

The western, desert state of Rajasthan recorded 49.6 deg C on Friday - India's hottest day of the year so far, the weather department said.

Water and health warnings have been issued with temperatures hovering around 47 deg C across many western, northern and southern states, with no letup in sight for at least two more days.

In the capital, New Delhi, the Indian Meteorological Department issued a red alert extreme weather warning as temperatures hit 47 deg C.

It said residents should not go out during the hottest hours of the day.

Several cities have reported fears of water shortages as lakes and rivers start to dry up.

In the western state of Maharashtra, farmers struggled to find water for thirsty animals and crops.

"We have to source water tankers from nearby villages as water reserves, lakes and rivers have dried up," said Mr Rajesh Chandrakant, a resident of Beed, one of the worst-hit districts.

"Farmers only get water every three days for their livestock."

Mr Raghunath Tonde, a farmer with a family of seven, said the area has suffered worsening shortages for five years.

"There is no drinking water available for days on end and we get one tanker every three days for the entire village," Mr Tonde told AFP.

"We are scared for our lives and livelihood," he added.

The Hindustan Times newspaper said many Beed residents had stopped washing and cleaning clothes due to the water shortage.

More than 40 per cent of India faces drought this year, experts from Gandhinagar city's Indian Institute of Technology, warned last month.

The annual Monsoon - which normally brings much needed rain to South Asia - is running a week behind schedule and is only expected to hit India's southern tip on June 6, the weather department said.

And private forecaster Skymet has said there will be less rain than average this year.

The Indian peninsula has seen a drastic change in rainfall patterns over the past decade, marked by frequent droughts, floods and sudden storms.