Indian heatwave leaves more than 1,000 dead

Children wash in the water from a public tap. Picture: AP
Children wash in the water from a public tap. Picture: AP
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Soaring summer temperatures in India have left more than 1,100 people dead over the past month, officials said.

Most of the deaths have been reported in the south-eastern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana.

More than 852 people have died from the stifling heat in Andhra Pradesh since 13 May, a government statement said.

In neighbouring Telengana 266 have died from heat-related causes, Bhambal Ram Meena, a top official in the disaster management department, said.

Over the last two days temperatures in both states have reduced marginally, but continue to hover near 45C. Public announcements have urged people to drink water and try and avoid going outdoors during the hottest hours of the day.

Hot, dry winds have also swept across New Delhi and most parts of north and central India. In the cities, large crowds of office workers gather around stalls selling cold fruit drinks and iced water. Weather officials say the sweltering temperatures are likely to continue for at least another week.

Monsoon rains, expected to arrive in the southern state of Kerala in the first week of June, should bring some respite. The monsoon season runs through September as the rains gradually cover the entire country.

P Tulsi Rani, special commissioner for disaster management in the state, said “The state government has taken up education programmes through television and other media to tell people not to venture into the outside without a cap, to drink water and other measures,”

“We have also requested NGOs and government organisations to open up drinking water camps so that water will be readily available for all the people in the towns.”

Alfred Innes, who lives in Hyderabad, the capital of Telengana state, said members of the public have received little help so far. “I have personally witnessed the death of a three-year-old very close to where I stay and that was because of severe heat,” he said.

“It’s very sad. The government isn’t doing much, but as individuals we are trying our best.”

Delhi is also enduring a week of sweltering heat as the temperature in the city hit a two-year high of 45.5C on Monday.

The Hindustan Times carried a front-page photo of a zebra crossing melting in the heat.

“It’s baking hot out here – our outing has turned into a nightmare,” said Meena Sheshadri, a tourist from the western city of Pune, who was visiting a Delhi monument with her children. “My throat is parched, even though I’ve been constantly sipping water.”

The meteorological department has issued a warning for Orissa, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh states saying that maximum temperatures there would remain above 45C.

Meteorological officials said the heatwave was due to a lack of rain.

There are fears some of the worst-affected states could be hit by drought before the monsoon rains arrive.

The monsoon is expected to hit the southern state of Kerala towards the end of this month, before sweeping across country.

Intense heat can cause cramps, exhaustion and heatstroke. Thousands of people died across India during heatwaves in 2002 and 2003