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India Record-Breaking Heatwave Kills Hundreds, Destroys Crops

May 25, 2016 09:11 AM EDT

India has recently recorded its highest temperature ever, with a scorching 51 degrees Celsius or 123.8 F. The result is a devastating death toll and ravaged crops.

Hundreds of people have died in more than 13 states, with damaged crops affecting hundreds of millions of Indians.

The withered fields have forced thousands of small farmers to abandon their land and move to the cities. Others have committed suicide rather than live in the shanties of the urban towns.

Rivers, lakes and dams have dried up in many parts of the affected areas of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The record-breaking temperature was set last May 19 in the city of Phalodi in the western state of Rajasthan. Other towns in the state, such as Churu, also recorded high temperatures of about 50 degrees Celsius that same day.

In the Indian capital New Delhi, temperature reached almost 47 degrees Celsius earlier.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) warned that the heatwave conditions were expected to continue in the following weeks in parts of central and north-west India.

A 60-year-old woman who was being treated in a hospital ward died of heatstroke in Baran, Rajasthan, according to a report in a local news website. Another resident, a 27-year-old woman living in the Kapran area of Bundi district, also died of heatstroke.

In the Marathwada region of Maharashtra, more than 400 farmers had taken their own lives, according to the Indian Express. One of the main reasons for the suicides is crop failure, which is attributed to India's water crisis and searing heat.

India's previous record was 50.6 degrees Celsius, which was set in the city of Alwar, also in Rajasthan, in 1956. The highest recorded temperature is 56.7 degrees Celsius, which happened in Death Valley, California in July of 1913.

In 2015, the heatwave killed 2,500 people in India, with a temperature of 47 degrees Celsius.

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