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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June, 2003, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Tempers rise in Indian heat wave
Omer Farooq
BBC correspondent in Hyderabad

Children seek out water sources in Andhra Pradesh
Ground water levels are dangerously low, so all sources are tapped
"Life has become a hell," says 75-year-old Lachaiah, a villager in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which is suffering one of its worst heat waves in recent memory.

"There is no work for farm hands like me. Even if I dare to come out to look for work, there is no guarantee I will return home alive."

More than 1,000 people have died in Andhra Pradesh in the three-week heat wave. Hundreds more have been hospitalised, stretching resources to the limit.

In one town, Kottagudem, scientists recorded a temperature of more than 52C for almost a week.

The heat wave has caused the state's worst drought for 40 years and many people have been left angry and frustrated.

Kokya Naik, the elected head of the village of Kamlapur, says it is hard enough to come out to work in the heat, but often there is also no work available.

We dug 24 bore-wells but could find water in only four of them
Penta Narsimha, Bhongir municipal chairman

Sixty-year-old Naik collapsed when he went out to meet officials to complain about the scarcity of water.

The ground water in the region has fallen to dangerous levels.

Penta Narsimha, chairman of the municipality in Bhongir, says: "There is no water even at a depth of 300 to 400 feet. We dug 24 bore-wells but could find water in only four of them."

People are now dependent on water brought in by tankers.

In the town of Nalgonda, some people have brought drinking water from Hyderabad, 50 kilometres (30 miles) away to sell to local people at 20 rupees (40 US cents) a litre.

"Only the rich can afford this. There is no way out for poor like us," says 55-year-old Naseema Bi in Nalgonda.

Twisted plastic

In the hospital in Ramannapet, 70 km north-east of Hyderabad, 50 people every day are admitted suffering from heat-related conditions.

"These are clearly cases of sunstroke. If we give them intravenous fluids and sponge them with cold water, we can save them. But we are running short of the fluids," a hospital official said.

Such is the intensity of the heat it has become difficult for people to walk barefoot even indoors.

"Everything in the house is becoming very hot," says MA Qayyum, an engineer in Nalgonda.

"Things made of plastic are becoming twisted. I am covering the telephone and television set in my home with a wet piece of cloth to save them from any damage," he says.

Mr Qayyum later moved his family to Hyderabad as the conditions had become unbearable.

Animal suffering

The crisis has angered and frustrated many.

The state government is giving 10,000 rupees to the families of those who have died in the heat wave.

But those who are forced to remain indoors, unable to work, are not getting anything.

Prayer meeting in Hyderabad
Prayers are said in Hyderabad for rain and a respite to the heat

The state has called on the federal government in Delhi for financial assistance.

"This is one of the worst crises facing the state," said Dr Jaiprakash Narayan, who heads the non-governmental organisation Lok Satta.

"The temperatures this year have broken all the records of the past 35 years."

But not only humans are suffering.

Monkeys, deer and rabbits have descended on villages looking for water, while some villagers in Nellore have taken to using a bear to find water sources.

"We followed the footprints of a bear to reach the places where he has dug three- to four-feet trenches to find water," says K Venkaiah, the divisional forest officer.

"Now they have become a source of water for the villagers too."

Animals and humans alike are getting little good news from the weather forecasters.

The director of Hyderabad meteorological centre, CV Bhadram, says the hot weather will continue and the monsoon - normally due in the state around 8 June - may be delayed by more than a week.

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07 Jul 00  |  Health

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