Swarms of locust descend on India as strife-torn country battles coronavirus and heatwave

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The strife-torn region was already tackling the coronavirus pandemic, a deadly 122F heatwave when the latest locust invasion of the descended. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are the worst affected states. Locals ran for shelter as “billions and trillions” of the ravenous insects swept across a residential area of Jaipur.

It is something I have never ever seen in my life

Jaipur resident

A man who filmed the swarm descibed “uncountable numbers of locusts flying in the sky”

He said: “It is something I have never ever seen in my life.”

The locusts have already destroyed nearly 125,000 acres of crops, bringing further misery to farmers during the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown.

KL Gurjar, deputy director of India’s Locust Warning Organisation, said: “We are battling a major locust attack from across the border.

“This is the biggest invasion in nearly three decades. The swarms are very big and they have migrated from across the border after breeding a month earlier than we were expecting.

“We are lucky that there is no crop in the fields now. But the locusts eat up all the green vegetation, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and plants.”

He said an average small locust swarm can eat as much food in a day as about 35,000 people.

The locust invasions come as a heatwave has sent temperatures to 122F (50C) in some places while the capital New Delhi saw its hottest May day since 2002.

India’s Meteorological Department said the hot spell was forecast to last several more days and warned of “severe heat wave conditions in isolated pockets”.

Churu in Rajasthan recorded temperatures of 122F (50C) yesterday while parts of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh sweltered just below that level.

Anshu Sharma of Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society, a non-profit disaster management organisation, said India face a number of challenges in the months ahead.

He said: “We need to be alert and anticipate where this is going next.

“The situation is all the more alarming as it comes at a time when the affected states are already reeling under COVID-19 and the ongoing heatwave.”

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According to the United Nation, the locust infestations can be traced back to the cyclone season of 2018-19 that brought heavy rains to the Arabian Peninsula and allowed at least three generations of “unprecedented breeding” that went undetected.

Swarms have since spread out into South Asia and East Africa.

Om Prakash, a plant-protection officer who works in Rajasthan state, said: “It is a severe attack. They have migrated here after breeding across the border in Pakistan.”

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