NEW DELHI - At least 18 people have died from heatstroke as India continues to reel from the most intense heatwave ever with temperatures suspected to have crossed 50 degrees Celsius.

Ten and seven people reportedly died in the eastern states of Odisha and Bihar, respectively, and one in Delhi on Thursday, while passengers fainted at the national capital’s airport amid scorching temperatures.

An Air India flight bound for San Francisco was delayed by 20 hours as some passengers collapsed waiting for it to take off after an eight-hour delay. The aircraft reportedly had no air-conditioning.

The deaths in Odisha were reported at a state hospital in the city of Rourkela in six hours until 8pm, The Indian Express said. Eight of them had already died when they were brought to the hospital and two died during treatment, the officials told the newspaper.

State authorities said they are investigating what caused the deaths but suspect the heatwave.

“Some people had temperatures of 103 to 105 degrees fahrenheit,” Sudharani Pradhan, superintendent of the hospital, told the newspaper.

“Since there is heatwave condition in the state, we suspect the deaths could be due to heat-related illness.”

At least seven people also died in Bihar, which is experiencing temperatures close to 45C, taking the death toll from the heatwave in recent days to 18 in just 48 hours.

Of the 18, eight were election workers, the State Emergency Operation Centre said on Friday.

It added that 11 of the confirmed deaths related to the heatwave were reported from Rohtas district, six from Bhojpur, and one from Buxar.

In Aurangabad, about “seven more people died on their way to the hospital yesterday but the exact cause of their death will be known after the autopsy”, district collector Shrikant Shastree told Reuters.

Four of them, including an election worker, died in Kaimur city and three in Arrah village.

In spite of the scorching heatwave, several regions in Bihar and Odisha are voting in the seventh and last phase of India’s mammoth six-week national election on Saturday. The results are due on 4 June.

The desert state of Rajasthan in western India has counted 61 more deaths from the heatwave between 23 May and 30 May, The New Indian Express reported, taking its death toll this summer to 122.

The numbers come just a day after a 40-year-old man died from heatstroke in Delhi.

The capital saw temperatures of around 50C this week and a reading in the city’s outskirts, which is yet to be confirmed, recorded a temperature of 52.9C, the highest ever for India.

Temperatures in northern India have been 5-10C higher than normal for this time of the year for several weeks now.

Most of northern India has been facing an intense heatwave since the start of April, along with neighbouring Pakistan which this week reported temperatures of 52C, and dozens of other Asian countries.

Scientists have said all heatwaves in Asia in recent years, including in 2022, 2023 and 2024, have been made worse by the climate crisis created by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

The last 12 months have been the hottest ever for the planet with heatwaves scorching even the oceans.

But while northern India is burning under the sun, swathes of Eastern India are still underwater following cyclone Remal, which has killed over 50 people in Bangladesh and India.

The Indian meteorological department said temperatures may drop in the coming week. However, eastern India where many states remain under a “red alert” may see two more days of extreme heat.