More than 1,000 people have died in the Andhra Pradesh area of India in a 3 week heat wave. Hundreds more have been hospitalized. The town of Kottagudem recorded a temperature of over 126 Fahrenheit for almost a week. “Life has become a hell,” says one villager. “There is no work for farm hands like me. Even if I dare to come out to look for work, there is no guarantee I will return home alive.” The heat has caused the state?s worst drought for 40 years. Local official Penta Narsimha says, “There is no water even at a depth of 300 to 400 feet. We dug 24 bore-wells but could find water in only four of them.” Water is being trucked in from as far 30 miles away. “Only the rich can afford this,” says one resident. “There is no way out for poor like us.”
50 people are admitted to the local hospital every day, suffering from heat-related conditions. “These are clearly cases of sunstroke. If we give them intravenous fluids and sponge them with cold water, we can save them. But we are running short of the fluids,” one hospital official says.
Many people normally go barefoot, but the ground is too hot even to walk barefoot indoors. “Everything in the house is becoming very hot,” says a local engineer. “Things made of plastic are becoming twisted. I am covering the telephone and television set in my home with a wet piece of cloth to save them from any damage.”
“This is one of the worst crises facing the state,” says Dr. Jaiprakash Narayan. “The temperatures this year have broken all the records of the past 35 years.”
Monkeys, deer and rabbits have come to the villages looking for water. Some residents are following animal tracks, trying to locate new sources of drinking water. Forest ranger K. Venkaiah says, “We followed the footprints of a bear to reach the places where he has dug three- to four-feet trenches to find water.”
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