LONDON (Reuters) - A group of 50,000 self-employed women in India have become the first beneficiaries of a novel insurance scheme that pays out when temperatures hit certain extremes.

As the temperature crossed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) between May 18 and May 25, the women in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra all received a flat $5 payment.

"This is the first time that insurance payouts and a direct cash assistance program have been combined to supplement the income of women when it's dangerously hot," said Kathy Baughman McLeod, CEO of non-profit Climate Resilience for All, which designed the insurance scheme along with India's Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA).

The bulk of the women, some 92%, then went on to receive an additional payout when insurance tied to the local conditions and duration of the extreme heat was triggered, with some receiving up to $19.80 each.

Insurance is increasingly seen by policymakers as a tool to help vulnerable communities receive financial support quickly after extreme weather events occur.

Total payments across the programme totalled $341,553.

The insurance was underwritten by reinsurer Swiss Re and provided locally by ICICI Lombard.

(Reporting by Simon Jessop and Katy Daigle; Editing by Sandra Maler)