Drought and heat wave hit three states in India

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Drought and heat wave hit three states in India, at least 20 people dead

NEW DELHI (AP) - With reservoirs and rivulets drying up under a scorching sun, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing areas in three drought-ridden Indian states, including earthquake-devastated Gujarat, officials said Friday.

At least 20 people have died from malnutrition and hot weather, according to newspaper reports. Two state governments have confirmed a total of four deaths.

In New Delhi, the capital, temperatures have soared to 42 C this week. Power outages have lasted for more than an hour several times a day while people seek relief from fans and air conditioners.

In the northwestern desert state of Rajasthan, which is in its third year of severe drought, many people must walk for several kilometres each day to get water.

"It's one of the severest droughts in living memory. Out of 32 districts, 31 are facing acute shortage of water," said Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. "More than 30,000 villages have about a 50 per cent deficit in crop yield, jeopardizing the lives of 32 million people."

Some 40 million cattle are also in danger and the federal government is rushing tankers of water and food to Rajasthan.

The state has offered work to the poorest people, but thousands are still migrating.

In neighbouring Gujarat state, which is still recovering from a Jan. 26 earthquake that killed an estimated 30,000 people and buried towns and villages, is also now battling drought.

In the eastern coastal state of Orissa, all but two of 30 districts have been hit by drought, officials said. Daily temperatures climbed to 45 C and schools closed two weeks early for summer break to protect children from heatstroke.

Wild deer, antelope and elephants were straying into villages in search of water in eastern Orissa.

The last heat wave to hit Orissa, in May 1998, killed more than 2,000 people.

The Canadian Press, 2001


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), May 04, 2001

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