LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ At least 15,000 people have died in the last month from epidemics sweeping northern Nigeria, according to news reports Wednesday.

Health Minister Ikechukwu Madubike told the Lagos Guardian newspaper that in the last week, 50 people had died every hour in Kano state, on the northern border with Niger.

The home state of Nigerian military ruler Gen. Sani Abacha is suffering from acute epidemics of spinal meningitis, gastroenteritis, cholera and measles.

``We are very alarmed,'' said Madubike. ``We have not witnessed this type of epidemic in recent memory.''

It is the height of summer in West Africa. Temperatures can easily reach 100-105 with stifling humidity, causing food to spoil and sanitary conditions to worsen.

The government said about 20 million Nigerians living in and around Kano state could be at risk.

Parking lots in Kano state have been converted into children's wards because of a severe shortage of hospital beds. There is also a serious lack of trained doctors in the region.