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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 June, 2003, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Hope for end to India heat
A man prays for rain near Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
Entire lakes have dried up in Andhra Pradesh
Monsoon showers have been reported in the north of India, bringing hopes that the cooling summer rains will soon arrive in areas hit by a deadly heat wave.

But weather officials warn it may yet be some days before rain reaches southern states where there have been more than 1,200 heat-related deaths.

The monsoon usually reaches the south-west of India in the first few days of June before a second weather front affects other parts.

But this year the vital rains are expected to be at least a week late, allowing temperatures in Andhra Pradesh to soar above 50C (122F).

Deaths attributed to the heat wave in the southern state now stand at 1,211, with about 100 more heat-related fatalities reported across India.

Map of India showing areas of heat wave and showers

The showers reported in five states in the more temperate north-east are less important than the drenching monsoons which are vital to the south's farm-dependent population.

But weather officials say they are a sign that the heat wave will break.

"We have had the first monsoon showers in the north-east," said SK Subramanium, deputy director general of the Indian Meteorological Department in Delhi.

He said rains were expected to arrive on the south-western coast in the next three to five days, though they might be slightly lighter than average.

Emergency appeal

Authorities in Andhra Pradesh have told people to stay indoors or cover up when outside, and to drink plenty of water.

Correspondents say many of the heat victims are farmers or manual labourers who have little option but to continue strenuous outdoor work.

The state government is giving 10,000 rupees ($215) to the families of each victim.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu says he has set up a task force to look into the deadly impact of the heat wave.

A similar announcement was made last year after heat was blamed for more than 1,000 deaths. No study was ever carried out, correspondents say.

In other parts of the region:

  • The northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh puts its death toll at 50
  • Four children die in a forest fire that swept through Naulakot in the nearby state of Uttaranchal Pradesh
  • Orissa state reports 20 deaths from heat stroke
  • Gujarat and Rajasthan states are suffering from crippling droughts
  • In Bangladesh, rain arrives in places after weeks of heat left 62 dead
  • Twenty people are reported dead in Pakistan's Punjab province

The BBC's Adam Mynott
"A huge reservoir for the capital Hyderabad is empty for the first time ever"

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