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Scorching Heatwave Kills 1,000 in India - 2003-06-02

A searing heat wave has killed nearly 1,000 people in India, mostly in the south of the country. The intense heat also is affecting neighboring Bangladesh.

The southern Andhra Pradesh state is the worst hit by the scorching Indian summer. Officials say there is no respite from the hot northerly winds that began sweeping the region three weeks ago, and sent temperatures soaring above 45 degrees Celsius. In some coastal districts, the mercury has hit the 50 degree mark.

Nearly 900 people have died in the state, due to sunstroke and dehydration. Many of the victims are farm laborers or elderly people.

The state administration has launched a campaign to educate people on how to avoid sunstroke. It advises people to stay indoors during the day. The government is also establishing drinking water booths in all districts.

Andhra Pradesh suffered a similar heat wave and a drought last year, causing huge water scarcities in the region.

Tens of thousands of Hindus have held prayers in the bed of a dried-up lake in the state capital Hyderabad, chanting hymns for rain. The state's Muslim community also offered special prayers in mosques asking for respite from the intense heat.

Several other parts of India are reeling from the effects of the weather. Nearly 100 heat-related deaths have been reported in the northern and eastern parts of the country. The western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan have been hit by acute water shortages; trains and water tankers are transporting water to the region.

In Bangladesh, officials say a week-long heat wave has killed 30 people, and hundreds of others have fallen sick by drinking polluted pond water.

The monsoon rains are expected to hit southern India and Bangladesh in the coming week, bringing down temperatures, and putting an end to the grueling heat.