Soaring Mercury

Five days of heat wave in Delhi. 130 people dead on the streets

Could the heat wave have led to a spike in the deaths of the homeless poor?

A heat wave hit Delhi on June 6, sending temperatures soaring above 45 degree Celsius. As the temperatures rose, so did the number of unidentified bodies found on the streets. In the five days that the heat wave lasted, 130 unidentified people died – an average of 26 deaths a day.

On an average, eight unidentified people die on Delhi's streets every day around the year. Most of them are men of working age. Homeless and poor, they often die in their sleep. Their bodies are picked up by the police in the morning and cremated after a few days if they remain unclaimed. While such deaths often hit the headlines in the winter, data for the last three years shows that they actually peak in the summer and during the rains.

The last time Delhi saw a sustained spike in the deaths was in the closing days of June 2012. In 12 days, 369 unidentified bodies were found, an average of 30 deaths a day. It is unclear if the city had witnessed a heat wave, an outbreak of disease, or any other abnormal occurrence during that period.

This summer, there is a sharp correlation between a rise in temperatures and a rise in deaths on the streets. While it might not be possible to draw definite conclusions, since the cause of the deaths is not recorded in the police database, it is plausible that the unprecedented and unrelenting heat might have played a role in the increased mortality. As reported earlier, a study on the heat wave in Ahmedabad in May 2010 found that deaths that month were 43% higher than for the same period in 2009 and 2011.

Either way, the impact of heat waves on public health needs more attention both within the government and in the public at large. A few protective measures could go a long way in saving lives.
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Tracing the formation of Al Qaeda and its path to 9/11

A new show looks at some of the crucial moments leading up to the attack.

“The end of the world war had bought America victory but not security” - this quote from Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, ‘The Looming Tower’, gives a sense of the growing threat to America from Al Qaeda and the series of events that led to 9/11. Based on extensive interviews, including with Bin Laden’s best friend in college and the former White House counterterrorism chief, ‘The Looming Tower’ provides an intimate perspective of the 9/11 attack.

Lawrence Wright chronicles the formative years of Al Qaeda, giving an insight in to Bin Laden’s war against America. The book covers in detail, the radicalisation of Osama Bin Laden and his association with Ayman Al Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor who preached that only violence could change history. In an interview with Amazon, Wright shared, “I talked to 600-something people, but many of those people I talked to again and again for a period of five years, some of them dozens of times.” Wright’s book was selected by TIME as one of the all-time 100 best nonfiction books for its “thoroughly researched and incisively written” account of the road to 9/11 and is considered an essential read for understanding Islam’s war on the West as it developed in the Middle East.

‘The Looming Tower’ also dwells on the response of key US officials to the rising Al Qaeda threat, particularly exploring the turf wars between the FBI and the CIA. This has now been dramatized in a 10-part mini-series of the same name. Adapted by Dan Futterman (of Foxcatcher fame), the series mainly focuses on the hostilities between the FBI and the CIA. Some major characters are based on real people - such as John O’ Neill (FBI’s foul-mouthed counterterrorism chief played by Jeff Daniels) and Ali Soufan (O’ Neill’s Arabic-speaking mentee who successfully interrogated captured Islamic terrorists after 9/11, played by Tahar Rahim). Some are composite characters, such as Martin Schmidt (O’Neill’s CIA counterpart, played by Peter Sarsgaard).

The series, most crucially, captures just how close US intelligence agencies had come to foiling Al Qaeda’s plans, just to come up short due to internal turf wars. It follows the FBI and the CIA as they independently follow intelligence leads in the crises leading up to 9/11 – the US Embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on US warship USS Cole in Yemen – but fail to update each other. The most glaring example is of how the CIA withheld critical information – Al Qaeda operatives being hunted by the FBI had entered the United States - under the misguided notion that the CIA was the only government agency authorised to deal with terrorism threats.

The depth of information in the book has translated into a realistic recreation of the pre-9/11 years on screen. The drama is even interspersed with actual footage from the 9/11 conspiracy, attack and the 2004 Commission Hearing, linking together the myriad developments leading up to 9/11 with chilling hindsight. Watch the trailer of this gripping show below.


The Looming Tower is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, along with a host of Amazon originals and popular movies and TV shows. To enjoy unlimited ad free streaming anytime, anywhere, subscribe to Amazon Prime Video.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon Prime Video and not by the Scroll editorial team.