Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hospitals overwhelmed as India heatwave deaths near 1,500

Hospitals in India battled Thursday to treat victims of a blistering heatwave that has claimed nearly 1,500 lives in just over a week - the highest number recorded in two decades.

Hundreds of mainly poor people die at the height of summer every year in India, but this year's figures are already the highest since 1995, when official data shows 1,677 people succumbed to the heat.

In southern Andhra Pradesh, by far the worst-hit state where top temperatures have reached 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) and 1,020 people have died since May 18, doctors said they had never seen so many severe cases.

"Our wards are completely full," said J V Subbarao, medical officer at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Medical Sciences in Andhra Pradesh.

"I have worked as a medical officer in this district for 40 years and I have never seen anything like this, with so many people arriving already dead."

Subbarao said most of the worst affected were poor and elderly who were simply unaware of the dangers of heat stroke, which can be fatal if left untreated.

Another 340 people have died from the heatwave in neighboring Telangana state, where temperatures hit 48 degrees Celsius over the weekend, compared to 31 such deaths in the whole of last year.

Experts say official figures for heat-related deaths likely underestimate the true number because extreme weather conditions disproportionately affect the poor who are less likely to die in hospitals....


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