Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 11:00 UK

Many die in acute Indian heatwave

A sun stroke victim being treated in Orissa
Orissa has been the worst affected state Photo: Sanjib Mukherjee

A severe heatwave has claimed the lives of nearly 100 people across India, reports say.

The eastern Indian state of Orissa appears to be the worst affected with 58 people dying from heat stroke, according to local officials.

Unofficial figures in the Orissa media put the number of dead closer to 200.

Many parts of India have recorded temperatures of over 40C as weather officials say the monsoon, expected at this time of the year, has been patchy.

Orissa disaster management minister Surjya Narayan Patro has said that the federal government should declare the heat wave as a "national calamity" so that the relatives of the dead are compensated better.

Most of those affected in the state are the poor, rickshaw pullers, daily wage workers and farmers.

'Drought-like situation'

Orissa has traditionally borne the brunt of heatwave deaths in India - 2042 people died of heat strokes in the state in 1998 alone, our correspondent Sanjaya Jena in Bhubaneswar says.

The death toll has come down over the years as people have been careful about leaving home in the scorching heat, officials say.

Last year, 68 people died from the heat in Orissa, down from 236 deaths in 2005.

Many cities in Orissa like Sambalpur, Titlagarh and Jharsuguda have been recording temperatures above 44C.

Hospitals have opened special wards for heat stroke victims, and mobile ice vans are patrolling some of the cities, officials say.

In northern Bihar state, local newspapers have reported that seven people have died from heat strokes, though there is no official confirmation, our correspondent Amarnath Tewary in Patna says.

A Bihar farmer, Sanket Upadhaya, said that the continuing heat had caused a "drought-like situation in the state".

In neighbouring Jharkhand, 17 people have reportedly died from the heat in the last three days alone, as scorching temperatures enveloped the cities of Gumla, Palamau and Bokaro.

A man bathing in Delhi which is in the grip of a severe heat wave
A heat wave is scorching India

Meteorologists say monsoon rains in Bihar have been delayed by three weeks and are over 90% below normal.

In southern Andhra Pradesh, six people have died from the heatwave sweeping parts of the coastal region.

The temperature has been hovering around 44C in some places in the state, says our correspondent Omer Farooq in Hyderabad.

Schools which opened recently after summer recess are working only till noon because of the heat.

The monsoon rains in the state have been 90% below normal till now, meteorologists say.

Chief minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy has asked government departments to arrange for special prayers for rains. A cloud seeding operation is also planned to begin next month if the rains are delayed further.

Unofficial reports from India's most populous Uttar Pradesh state say four people have died of heat strokes in the state.

The government there admits that it does not compile heat stroke figures, though many routinely die from heat every year.

On Wednesday, Indian officials said that monsoon are likely to be "below normal" triggering off fears about crop failure and high food prices.

Monsoon rains usually last from June to September.

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