June 10: If you were in Delhi at 8.30 pm on Sunday, you still would have found the hottest spot in Calcutta during the day 5 degrees cooler.
On a day the monsoon tiptoed into Bengal, the weather is playing a deadly joke on north of India and beyond.
After an unusually mild May, the sun unleashed its full fury on Delhi and neighbouring states, killing as many as 21 people — the highest single-day toll this summer.
Most of the deaths today were reported in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. Delhi suffered its first casualties of the season with two people succumbing to dehydration.
The maximum temperature in Delhi went up four degrees Celsius above normal to 44.9. But what let loose a life-threatening blast was the spurt in minimum temperature.
The minimum figure bubbled up to 34 degrees, compared with last year’s 29 on the same day. The maximum temperature on June 10 last year was more or less the same as today. The less the difference between the maximum and minimum figures during summer, the warmer will be the day.
Another lethal component was injected when humidity plunged to 26 per cent — it was 40 per cent last year. This means people sweat less, lulling them into complacency and leading to dehydration.
At 8.30 pm, the temperature in Safdarjung in south Delhi was 39.4 degrees — 5.1 higher than the maximum recorded in Calcutta during the day at 4.30 pm.
Those who could afford to stay indoors did so in Delhi. “We had planned a visit to a relative,” said Pankaj Walia, a bank officer. “But we didn’t step out.”
Many — some men stripped to their waist — queued up before swimming pools. Strikingly similar scenes were seen across the border in Lahore, where the mercury touched 46 degrees.
The Delhi Met office has blamed westerlies blowing into the capital. The weather is not expected to improve much tomorrow.
For Delhi, the monsoon, which covered the entire north Bengal today and is expected to reach Calcutta sometime this week, is still some 20 days away.
A silver lining for Delhi is the forecast of the possibility of pre-monsoon rain in the “coming weeks”. But in May, periodic showers and squalls had fuelled hopes of a benign June.