The deadly wave of extreme temperatures in India looks set to continue this week, authorities have said. The authorities have promised financial compensation to some of the victims' families.
The heat had so far claimed at least 539 lives, killing mostly construction workers, the elderly or the homeless, officials said Monday. The death toll is expected to rise.
Southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana suffered the brunt of the heat wave, with temperatures edging towards 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit ) on Sunday. Several dozens of people also died in the Indian capital of New Delhi, with the mercury reaching 43.5.
"The majority of the victims are people who have been exposed to the sun directly, usually aged 50 and above and from the working classes," P. Tulsi Rani, special commissioner of Andhra Pradesh's disaster management department, told AFP news agency.
The deaths started occurring on Monday last week, according to Rani, but the number increased rapidly towards the end of the week after days of scorching heat.
Two taxi drivers have also died in their cars in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal state.
Heat to continue
Government officials in the southern states were struggling to provide drinking water and advised people not to go outside during peak hours.
"We are asking them to take precautions like using an umbrella, using a cap, taking a huge quantity of liquids like water and buttermilk, and wearing cotton clothing," Rani said.
The state authorities have also set up centers to distribute fluids in urban areas, and canceled the leave of all doctors as hospitals are flooded with people suffering heat stroke.
The officials promised compensation of 100,000 rupees ($1,575) for the families of people who had died.
The Indian Meteorological Department has issued a red warning to affected regions, saying that the heat wave is likely to persist over coming days. The relief is only expected with the arrival of monsoon, predicted to hit India's coastline on May 31.
dj/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)