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24 die as heat wave grips India

AT least 24 people have died in a scorching heat wave that has swept over half a dozen Indian states, officials said yesterday.

Blistering hot, dry winds have swept across most parts of northern and central India, wilting plants and forcing people to avoid the outdoors when they can.

The highest temperature of 49 degrees Celsius this week was recorded in Bundelkhand district of northern Uttar Pradesh state.

In parts of the state, villagers performed rituals to induce rain, pouring water on children lying on the ground with their hands clasped toward the sky.

Huge swathes of rural farmland has turned bone-dry as farmers await the annual monsoon rains, which are already delayed and expected to be lighter than usual, according to the government.

At least five people have died from heatstroke this week in the state, according to Raja Ram Srivastava, a revenue department official.

Authorities said four people died in eastern Orissa state, according to O.J. Choudhary, an official at the revenue department, which monitors heat-related deaths.

Thirty-nine other suspected heat wave related deaths are being investigated by authorities, Choudhary added.

In northern Bihar state, at least 15 people have died in 10 days of intense heat, according to a local disaster management official who refused to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak to reporters.

As temperatures have soared, most parts of northern and central India have suffered severe water and power shortages, leading to protests by residents, news reports said.

The meteorological department said the sweltering conditions were likely to continue for at least two more days.


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