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A heat wave gripping parts of South Asia since mid-May gets even more brutal


South Asia is home to about one-fifth of the world's population. It's also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather made worse by climate change. And this week, a heat wave in parts of Pakistan and India intensified. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Mumbai.


UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: (Non-English language spoken) Delhi.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Delhi is on fire, a news anchor says, referring to the Indian capital and its surrounds. It's home to more than 30 million people. This heat wave gripping parts of South Asia began in mid-May, but this week was the most brutal. In Delhi, on Wednesday, the temperature peaked at just over 120 degrees in one area. The extreme heat - like climate change - has a way of exposing fault lines between rich and poor and the cracks in government services. There's been water shortages across Delhi. The rich can buy more. For poorer residents, it's more precarious. One Delhi-based journalist, Aakash (ph) Sharma, recorded folks running after a water tanker.


HADID: Some men leap onto the back of the moving tanker. Women bang on the sides. They fling up hoses to fill up gallon-sized plastic trucks.


HADID: Barely six miles away, Neha Gupta (ph) says she's huddling near her AC. It's a privilege few can afford. Her fridge, though, broke down. Lucky for her, the freezer's working.

NEHA GUPTA: So I've consumed a lot of ice cubes in the past few days.

HADID: Gupta says she's lucky - she's staying indoors. But for laborers, the choice is hunger or heat. Local media reports nearly 4,000 people suffered heat stroke this week. One laborer's death was attributed to the heat wave. The real toll will likely be much higher. Further out from Delhi, the heat's gripped areas like the arid northwestern state of Rajasthan. There, Mamta Bairwa (ph) says this is the worst she's ever seen it, and she should know.

MAMTA BAIRWA: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: She used to work as a goat herder and says it wasn't even this bad under the open skies. Scientists say climate change is causing South Asia's heat waves to be more extreme, more frequent and last longer. Next Monday, the temperature in the capital is expected to only peak at 111 degrees.

Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Mumbai.

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Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.