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India heat wave death toll surpasses 1,800, crisis response questioned

A heat wave in the South Asian country has left nearly 2,000 dead after a week of scorching temperatures. But some are concerned the government's response is not enough to ease the crisis.

A

heat wave stretching across India

from Himachal Pradesh in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south has left more than 1,800 people dead.

Many of the victims have died from heat stroke and dehydration after temperatures topped 47 Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit) in the South Asian country.

The extreme weather caused water shortages in more than 4,000 villages, prompting thousands of water tankers to deliver critical supplies in the central state of Maharashtra, officials from the state water department told Press Trust of India.

Farmers also reported crop fields being scorched by the unexpectedly high temperatures.

Indien Hitzewelle Zebrastreifen in Neu Delhi schmilzt

The high temperatures melted streets in the Indian capital of New Delhi

Easing the crisis

However, emergency services experts have questioned the government's ability to respond to the crisis, with some suggesting local initiatives to ease the strain of the extreme weather.

"The spiking temperatures underscore the need for local heat adaptation plans and early warning systems to reduce the health effects of heat stress and increase resilience in local communities to rising temperatures," said Anjali Jaiswal, director of the Indian Initiative at the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council, reported Reuters news agency.

Ahmedabad, a city of 5.5 million people, gained prominence for developing an action plan to protect at-risk populations by developing cooling spaces in public areas after more than 1,300 people were killed by a heat wave in 2010.

"Ahmedabad's Heat Action Plan - South Asia's first early warning system against extreme heat waves - is tailored to help protect the city's vulnerable communities during these disasters," Jaiswal said.

The heat wave is expected to subside by early June upon the arrival of the monsoon season.

ls/ rg(Reuters, AP, AFP)

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