South India on alert as temperatures soar
Weather officials warned on Wednesday there would be no immediate relief from soaring temperatures in Andhra Pradesh where people are bearing the brunt of a heatwave that has claimed nearly 1,250 lives across India.india Updated: Jun 05, 2003 11:06 IST
Weather officials warned on Wednesday there would be no immediate relief from soaring temperatures in Andhra Pradesh where people are bearing the brunt of a heatwave that has claimed nearly 1,250 lives across India.
A majority of the heatwave victims are daily wage labourers with no savings, who have no option but to continue doing strenuous menial jobs outdoors to feed their families despite the rising mercury.
D.C. Rosaiah, relief commissioner in Andhra Pradesh, told AFP that 74 more people had died across the state, bring the death toll to 1,139.
Most of the casualties were in the coastal district of Guntur bordering the Bay of Bengal.
"The toll figure has shown another sharp jump with 46 fresh casualties being reported from Guntur alone," said Rosaiah.
"Given the unprecedented scale of this tragedy our government has requested emergency assistance from the prime minister's relief fund and they have reacted positively."
Most of the victims are people living below the poverty line and the government has promised to pay their relatives a 10,000-rupee (215-dollar) grant.
Andhra Pradesh has one of the highest concentrations of India's poorest people. Almost 12 million people, or 15 percent of the population, live below the government designated poverty line.
Government officials said state authorities were considering keeping schools closed for another week until the rains arrive. Schools have been shut for the summer vacation and are due to reopen next week.
C.V.V. Bhadram, director of the Hyderabad Meteorological office, warned there would be no relief from the heat at least until the end of the week.
"The dry northwesterly winds sweeping across the state which are causing the heatwave are slowly weakening but it could take until the end of the week for any real relief to be felt," he said.
He urged residents to stay indoors and drink plenty of water.
A delay in the arrival of this year's monsoon rains, which were supposed to hit India by the first week of June, has other Indian states worried.
Biswabhushan Hari Chandan, revenue minister of Orissa, said the situation could snowball into a "massive disaster" in Orissa if the rains failed.
"The state government has confirmed reports that at least 20 people have died due to heat stroke conditions in western Orissa. The casualties will be much higher if the rains do not come soon," said Chandan.
Four children died as a forest fire swept through Naulakot in Uttaranchal with news channel Aaj Tak attributing the blaze to dry timber and extreme temperatures.
The Press Trust of India news agency quoted officials as saying that raging forest fires in other parts of Uttaranchal state posed a major risk.
Helicopter flights to the Hindu holy shrine of Kedarnath in Uttaranchal were suspended Wednesday as a fire broke out in the jungles of Rudraprayag, an official told the news agency.
Uttar Pradesh also reeled under severe heatwave conditions with the toll mounting to 50 on Wednesday as nine more deaths were reported.
Elsewhere in India 30 people have died from heat-related ailments since rising temperatures engulfed India's Gangetic plains in mid-May.
In neighbouring Bangladesh, reports said Wednesday 11 more people have died in a heatwave, bringing the death toll in the past week to 62.
Around 11 people have died in Pakistan over the past 24 hours as several cities sizzled in scorching heat, raising the toll from the current wave to more than 50.
First Published: Jun 05, 2003 11:06 IST