126 Degrees: New Delhi Sweats Through Its Hottest Recorded Day

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

New Delhi recorded its highest temperature ever measured on Wednesday — 126 degrees Fahrenheit, or 52.3 degrees Celsius — leaving residents of the Indian capital sweltering in a heat wave that has kept temperatures in several Indian states well above 110 degrees for weeks.

In New Delhi, where walking out of the house felt like walking into an oven, officials feared that the electricity grid was being overwhelmed and that the city’s water supply might need rationing.

The past 12 months have been the planet’s hottest ever recorded, and cities like Miami are experiencing extreme heat even before the arrival of summer. Scientists said this week that the average person on Earth had experienced 26 more days of abnormally high temperatures in the past year than would have been the case without human-induced climate change.

Although late-afternoon dust storms and light drizzle in New Delhi brought hope of some reprieve on Wednesday, the weather station at Mungeshpur, northwest of the capital, reported a recording of 126 degrees around 2:30 p.m. Dr. Kuldeep Srivastava, a scientist at the regional meteorological center in Delhi, said it was the highest temperature ever recorded by the automatic weather monitoring system, which was installed in 2010.

For weeks now, temperatures in several states in India’s north have reached well over 110 degrees, and hospitals have been reporting an uptick in cases of heatstroke. In the Himalayan states, hundreds of forest fires have been reported.

The heat wave has coincided with campaigning for India’s general election, with last phase of voting set to take place on June 1. Candidates, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition leaders, have continued holding large public rallies, and Nitin Gadkari, a cabinet minister who is running for re-election, fainted from the heat while addressing a rally.

On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi, the opposition leader, took a break during a speech to pour water from a bottle onto his head. “It’s quite hot, no?” he said.

To help conserve water amid the extreme heat, Atishi Marlena, Delhi’s water minister, announced the deployment of 200 teams to crack down on wastage and misuse. Fines will be imposed for activities such as washing cars with hoses, “overflow of water tanks” and “use of domestic water for construction or commercial” purposes, she said.

Just how much the heat has affected daily life in the Indian capital was captured in the adjournment order of a consumer dispute court last week when the most intense period of the heat wave began.

The presiding official, Suresh Kumar Gupta, complained that the room had no air-conditioning, and the water supply in the bathrooms was also affected.

“There is too much heat in the courtroom, which led to sweating, as such it is difficult to hear arguments,” he said in the order. “In these circumstances, arguments cannot be heard, so case is adjourned.”

Jitender Singh, 42, an auto rickshaw driver in the eastern part of the city, said that business was down by about a third because people were avoiding leaving their homes. He said he and his colleagues had frequently fallen sick.

“But we must come on the road to support our families,” he added.