Via The Guardian: Daytime cooking ban in India as heatwave claims 300 lives.
With sizzling temperatures claiming more than 300 lives this month in India, officials have banned daytime cooking in some parts of the drought-stricken country in a bid to prevent accidental fires that have killed nearly 80 more people.
The eastern state of Bihar this week took the unprecedented step of forbidding any cooking between 9am and 6pm, after accidental fires exacerbated by dry, hot and windy weather swept through shantytowns and thatched-roof houses in villages and killed 79 people. They included 10 children and five adults killed in a fire sparked during a Hindu prayer ceremony in Bihar’s Aurangabad district last week.
People were instead told to cook to night.
Hoping to prevent more fires, officials have also banned the burning of spent crops and religious fire rituals. Anyone defying the ban risks up to a year in jail.
“We call this the fire season in Bihar,” Vyas, a state disaster management official who goes by one name, said. “Strong, westerly winds stoke fires which spread easily and cause great damage.”
Much of India is reeling under a weeks-long heat wave and severe drought conditions that have decimated crops, killed livestock and left at least 330 million Indians without enough water for their daily needs.
Rivers, lakes and dams have dried up in parts of the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, and overall officials say that groundwater reservoirs are at just 22 percent capacity.
In some areas, the situation is so bad the government has sent tankers of water for emergency relief. Monsoon rains are still weeks away, expected to start only in June.
At least 300 people have died of heat-related illness this month, including 110 in the state of Orissa, 137 in Telangana and another 45 in Andhra Pradesh where temperatures since the start of April have been hovering around 44C[111ºF].
That’s about 4-5C hotter than normal for April, according to state meteorological official YK Reddy. He predicted the situation would only get worse in May, traditionally the hottest month in India.