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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
India heat deaths exceed 1,000
Children in Hyderabad join 100,000 Muslims to offer special prayers for rain
People of all ages are praying for a respite in the weather
An acute heat wave has claimed the lives of at least 1,065 people in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

The death toll in the state is now higher than in a similar disaster last year, which claimed 1,037 lives.

Some parts recorded temperatures of over 50C as weather officials say the monsoon, expected at this time of the year, has been delayed.

The coastal regions of Andhra and Telangana have experienced temperatures almost 10 degrees higher than the seasonal average.

Hottest place

The state relief commissioner, DC Rosaiah, told the BBC that there have now been deaths from heat stroke in 20 of the 23 states in Andhra Pradesh since mid-May.

Most of those who have died live in the countryside and are over 50-years-old, although some children are also among those affected.

Hyderabad has experienced its highest temperatures in about seven years and hot, dry winds have forced most people to remain indoors.

The town of Kottagudem in Khammam district has remained the hottest place, recording temperatures as high as 51.3C on Sunday evening.

Officials say the situation is unlikely to change in the next two days.

A publicity campaign is under way to help educate people on how to protect themselves from the heat wave and recommends that they do not go outdoors between 10.00 and 17.00.

"People have been asked to keep their heads and ears covered with cloth and not to expose themselves to the heat," senior district administrator Ram Prakash Sisodia said.

But many agricultural and poorer workers have ignored the advice fearing loss of income.

Poultry farmers have asked for help from the federal government to save their stocks.

Andhra Pradesh Poultry Federation president MP Seshaiah told AFP news agency 2.3 million egg-laying chickens have died in the high temperatures.

Other states

Other states across India have also been seriously affected by the extreme temperatures and drought.

Rajasthan, which is witnessing its fourth consecutive year of drought, is particularly badly hit.

All 32 districts have been declared drought regions.

On Sunday, about 100,000 Muslims offered special prayers for rain in Hyderabad.

Elsewhere in the city, more than 5,000 Hindus gathered on the bed of a dried out lake, chanting sacred hymns and praying for an end to the deadly heat.

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