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Death Toll Rising In India Heat

Indian farmer walks with his cow on his dry farm land on the outskirts of Bhopal, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Monday May 26, 2003. Monsoon rains, the main source of water for 600 million Indians who depend on agriculture are likely to come a week later to the drought hit country this year, authorities said May 16. (AP Photo/Gaurav Tiwari)
AP
The death toll in southern India due to a two-week heat wave has climbed to at least 490 people.

That's according to D.C. Roshaiah, relief commissioner for the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, the hardest hit area. Roshaiah says in addition, at least 100 people have been hospitalized and are being treated for dehydration and sunstroke.

Human beings are not the only victims of the heat. The forest department said an elephant died due to dehydration near Kurupam in Vizianagaram district, about 466 miles northeast of the state capital, Hyderabad.

The poultry industry has also been hard hit, with 1.4 million chickens dying in the last two days.

The Andhra Pradesh Poultry Federation reported that the export of eggs from the state has decreased by 33 percent, from 20 million eggs per day to 12.5 million.

Relief official Roshaiah said the worst hit districts were in East Godavari and Nalgonda.

"We have warned the people not to venture out during the peak hours of the day," he said.

The town of Hanmakonda in Warangal district, 105 miles north of Hyderabad, reported the hottest temperature Tuesday: 117 degrees Farenheit.

C.V. Bhadram, director of the meteorological department, said dry winds from the north are causing the severe heat.

The state of Andhra Pradesh is battling its worst drought in 40 years due to lack of rain last year.

Last year, a heat wave killed more than 1,000 people in the state, most of them elderly and unable to bear temperatures that reached up to 122 degrees. Tin-roofed shanties were like ovens for hundreds of thousands of poor people.

Roshaiah said the death toll is much lower so far this year, due to the government's precautionary steps, which involved crisis monitoring, food-for-work schemes in drought areas and other relief measures.

Weather officials expect the situation to improve as monsoon rains advance toward the southern Indian coast. The rains are expected to reach Andhra Pradesh next week.