India records its hottest temperature ever amid heat wave
Prolonged heat wave this year has already killed hundreds, destroyed crops
A city in western India has suffered through the country's highest temperature in history — a scorching 51 degrees Celsius.
The record was set Thursday in the city of Phalodi, in the western state of Rajasthan. India's meteorological department said the previous high was 50.6 Celsius (123 F), reached in 1956 in the city of Alwar, also in Rajasthan.
Authorities have issued a severe heat wave alert for the next two days in the western states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and parts of the central state of Madhya Pradesh. That means the areas can expect temperatures as high as 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit) or more.
The main summer months — April, May and June — are always excruciatingly hot across most parts of India before monsoon rains and cool temperatures arrive.
The monsoon hits southern India in the first week of June and covers the rest of the country within a month.
This year — as temperatures hit new highs — the monsoon is especially eagerly awaited as several parts of the country are reeling under a drought brought on by two years of weak rains.
The prolonged heat wave this year has already killed hundreds and destroyed crops in more than 13 states, impacting hundreds of millions of Indians.
Hundreds of farmers are reported to have killed themselves across the country and tens of thousands of small farmers have been forced to abandon their farmland and live in squalor in urban slums in order to earn a living.
Rivers, lakes and dams have dried up in many parts of the western states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat, and overall officials say that groundwater reservoirs are severely depleted.
In some areas, the situation is so bad the government has sent in water by train for emergency relief.