Friday , May 27 2022

Sizzling weather disrupts life for Vietnamese living in India


It has been three days since Thong Nguyen stepped out of his apartment in India, which is in the grip of a heatwave with temperatures rising up to 45 degrees Celsius.

He said: “This is horrible. I always leave the air conditioner on and limit heading out as much as possible.”

He added that the unbearable heat him makes him tired and causes headaches.

Truong Thi Kieu Minh said it is the hottest she has experienced during her 15 years in New Delhi.

“It is just the beginning of the summer, but it is already too hot for me to handle.”

She said the heat is already driving her “crazy” and feared it might get worse. She expects temperatures to rise to around 50 degrees in June and July.

Vietnamese living in India are struggling to cope with the scorching temperatures as a record heatwave sweeps through the nation, forcing them to drastically change their daily routines.

India recorded its third-hottest April in the past 122 years according to the meteorological department.

The average maximum temperature was 35.3 degrees, just behind the 35.42 degrees Celsius in 2010 and 35.32 degrees Celsius in 2016, the Indian government said in a recent statement.

“The weather in India is hotter and drier than in Vietnam, and so it is more uncomfortable,” Minh said.

She was shocked by the summer heat when she first came to the country in 2007, and now the temperatures are more “brutal,” forcing her to leave the fans in her home running at full capacity, she said.

Unlike Minh, who is allowed to work from home, Nguyen Cong Toan still has to commute every day in the sweltering heat.

This is his first experience of an Indian heatwave.

“It feels like the oppressive and severe heat is melting everything.”

He has to work outdoors all day and his shirt is usually drenched in sweat by the end of the day. He has to take short breaks every one or two hours and drink water frequently to avoid dehydration and heat stroke.

“I hope I’ll get used to this extreme weather soon.”

In Kolkata, where a heatwave has prevailed for months, Truong Ngoc Minh Huong has had the same experience.

“It is like an oven, and stepping outside could burn your skin.”

She only ventures out to buy food and rushes back home immediately, where the air conditioner is always on.

Only about 13 percent of Indian households have air-conditioning.

A man uses his mobile phone as he sits amidst the outer units of air conditioners, at the rear of a commercial building in New Delhi, India, April 30, 2022. Photo by Reuters

A man uses his mobile phone as he sits amidst the outer units of air conditioners, at the rear of a commercial building in New Delhi, India, April 30, 2022. Photo by Reuters

The heatwave has wreaked havoc on crops such as wheat and fruits and vegetables. Wheat yields in India have fallen by up to 50 percent in some of the areas hardest hit by the extreme temperatures.

The extreme weather has also threatened the national electricity system, causing brownouts in many areas.

Power shortages have affected millions as demand for electricity surges to record levels.

“They never give notice about blackouts,” Minh said.

“Every day there are up to 20 blackouts, each lasting 20 minutes to an hour.”

Minh is worried she cannot earn enough money working from home if the blackouts keep occurring, preventing her from connecting to the Wi-Fi.

“This weather affects every aspect of life.”

Officials have warned people to remain indoors and keep hydrated and recommended people to “wear lightweight, light-colored, loose, cotton clothes and cover your head with a cloth, hat or umbrella.”

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has identified 23 of India’s 28 states and over 100 cities and districts as having a high risk of heat.

People fetch water from a pit at an abandoned stone quarry on a hot day in Badama village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, May 4, 2022.

People fetch water from a pit at an abandoned stone quarry on a hot day in Badama village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, May 4, 2022.

Kunal Satyarthi, its policy and planning adviser, said 19 states already have heat-action plans in place and the rest are in the process of doing so.

Just a few years ago only nine states were identified as heatwave-prone, but now there are 23, he said.

He said preparations include providing drinking water in public places.

For climate scientists, none of this comes as a surprise.

Meanwhile, the power shortages are sparking scrutiny of India’s long reliance on coal, which helps generate 70 percent of the country’s electricity.

Huong said the blackouts cause her child to cry and she is unable to sleep at night.

“It is exhausting, I don’t want to do anything but keep showering to beat the heat.

The weather bureau has warned that July and August would be extremely hot owing to rising humidity and since it is the planting season in some states.

It also marks the beginning of the monsoon season, when heavy rains can flood coal mines and disrupt both mining and power supply.

Thong, who has lived in India for three years, said: “The globe is getting hotter, and we are am now living in that reality. This is a nightmare.”

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