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Over 50 Dead in India as Record-Breaking Heatwave Persists

The Indian federal health ministry reported approximately 24,849 cases of heatstroke during this period.

India is grappling with a brutal heatwave that has claimed the lives of more than 50 people over the past three days. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh reported around 33 deaths over the weekend due to the extreme heat, while in Odisha (Orissa) state, about 20 people have died from heatstroke, according to an official statement to the ANI news agency.

The fatalities largely occurred on June 1, coinciding with the final phase of polling for India’s general election, the results of which are set to be announced on June 4. The election, held every five years during the summer months of April and May, has been particularly challenging this year due to unprecedented temperatures.

The federal health ministry reported at least 56 confirmed heatstroke deaths from March 1 to May 30, with approximately 24,849 cases of heatstroke during this period. However, state-specific figures indicate the actual number of deaths could be significantly higher.

In Uttar Pradesh, the deceased include volunteer policemen, polling officials, security guards, and sanitation staff. Navdeep Rinwa, the state’s chief electoral officer, announced that the families of deceased election personnel would receive a monetary compensation of 1.5 million rupees ($18,000; £14,000). Rinwa also reported an incident where a voter fainted in the queue due to the heat and was pronounced dead upon arrival at a health facility.

In Odisha, district authorities have reported 99 suspected heatstroke deaths in the past 72 hours, with 20 cases confirmed, according to the state’s Special Relief Commissioner. Suspected heat-related deaths have also been reported from Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand.

The National Centre for Disease Control describes heatstroke as a “life-threatening” condition with a mortality rate of 40-64%. The relentless heat has affected northern and central India and parts of the west for the past two weeks, with temperatures consistently around 45-46°C and reaching up to 50°C in some areas.

The India Meteorological Department predicts a relief in the coming days due to the onset of the monsoon. Meanwhile, the heatwave has led to severe water and electricity shortages, exacerbated by a surge in power consumption. Videos from Delhi show residents scrambling for water from tankers, with many parts of the capital experiencing frequent power cuts.

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