Lightning kills 907 in India as extreme weather surges in 2022

A policeman jumps off a makeshift raft after wading through a flooded area of a slum on the banks of the river Yamuna in New Delhi, India, Sept 28, 2022.
PHOTO: Reuters

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NEW DELHI — India saw a big jump in extreme weather events such as heatwaves and lightning strikes this year and related deaths rose to their highest in three years, government data showed on Wednesday (Dec 7), with scientists blaming climate change for the heavy toll.

There were nearly eight times as many heatwaves, 27 in all, and lightning strikes rose more than 111 times, killing 907 people, the Ministry of Earth Sciences said in a report to parliament.

Thunderstorms increased more than five times to 240.

This year's 2,183 deaths due to such events until last month were the highest since 2019's 3,017. Lightning and floods and heavy rains accounted for 78 per cent of the deaths this year, the data showed.

Temperatures during India's monsoon season have risen this century and the country could see more frequent heatwaves in future, the government said in August. India is the world's third-largest carbon polluter, though its per-capita emissions are much lower than many developed countries.

The country of nearly 1.4 billion suffered its hottest March in more than a century and temperatures were unusually high in April and May, blamed mainly on climate change.

The World Health Organization says that from 1998-2017, more than 166,000 people died due to heatwaves globally. It says that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause about 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

India's western neighbour Pakistan faced devastating floods this year that covered a third of the country, killed more than 1,500 people and impacted millions.

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