NEW DELHI - A heatwave gripped parts of northern India as tempertures in capital Delhi touched 47C amid a severe weather alert.

“Severe heatwave conditions are very likely in some parts of west Rajasthan during 17-20 May and in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi during 18-20 May,” announced the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Parts of New Delhi recorded temperatures up to 47.1C on Friday, while northern states like Haryana and Punjab are also expected to see “severe heatwave conditions”.

Rajasthan recorded a maximum temperature of 46C on Thursday as the heatwave days in April were the highest in 15 and nine years in the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha respectively, according to IMD data.

The heatwave comes at the same time as India’s 6-week ongoing national elections, which has experts concerned as citizens wait in long lines to cast their votes.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his primary challenger from the opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, are both expected to hold rallies in New Delhi on Saturday evening.

The extreme heat has been at least partly blamed for the low voter turnout in the second phase of the national elections which saw polling across 13 states and union territories voting last week. It saw 63 per cent of those eligible voting, down further from the 66 per cent turnout in the first phase on 19 April.

Two people died from suspected heat stroke in the southern state of Kerala in April, where temperatures soared to 41.9C, nearly 5.5C above normal.

Since the beginning of April, dozens of countries in Asia from India to the Philippines have seen record-high temperatures leading to school closures and the triggering of urgent health warnings across the region.

A study conducted by scientists from World Weather Attribution (WWA), has found that this year’s heatwave would have been “virtually impossible” in the Philippines and a lot less extreme in South and West Asia without the climate crisis caused by burning oil, coal and gas.

The conditions for a heatwave are met in India when the maximum temperature of a weather station touches 40C in the plains, 37C in coastal areas, and 30C in hilly regions, or the departure from normal is at least 4.5 degrees. A severe heatwave is declared if the temperature is at least 6.4 degrees above normal.

April to June are usually the hottest months in most of India, but the country has seen more intense temperatures over the past decade, which leads to severe water shortages as well.

The Met department has warned that India could see more heatwave days between April and June this year than it normally does.