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Indian Heat Wave Death Toll Rises to 430

May 27, 2003

HYDERABAD, India (AP) _ A deadly heat wave in southern India has killed at least 430 people in the past two weeks, a relief official said Tuesday.

The death toll from dehydration and sunstroke, caused by high temperatures and shortages of drinking water, may increase further, said D.C. Roshaiah, chief of relief operations in Andhra Pradesh state.

Roshaiah said hundreds of people were bring treated at hospitals in several parts of state, which has experienced temperatures as high as 116.5 degrees.

Seven out of the state’s 23 districts accounted for most of the deaths. The highest death toll, 85, came from the coastal district of East Godavari, where temperatures hit 117.5 degrees last week.

Last year, a heat wave killed more than 1,000 people in the state, most of them elderly and unable to bear temperatures that reached up to 122 degrees. Tin-roofed shanties were like ovens for hundreds of thousands of poor people.

The state is battling its worst drought in 40 years due to lack of rain last year.

Roshaiah said the death toll was much lower so far this year, due to the government’s precautionary steps, which involved crisis monitoring, food-for-work schemes in drought areas and other relief measures.

Weather officials expect the situation to improve as monsoon rains advance toward the southern Indian coast. The rains are expected to reach Andhra Pradesh state next week.

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