A woman wipes the head of her ailing husband using a wet cloth at the district hospital in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Monday, June 19, 2023. Several people have died in two of India's most populous states in recent days amid a searing heat wave, as hospitals find themselves overwhelmed with patients. More than hundred people in the Uttar Pradesh state, and dozens in neighboring Bihar state have died due to heat-related illness.Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

Death toll rises amid sweltering heat wave in 2 of India’s most populous states

RAJESH KUMAR SINGH, PIYUSH NAGPAL and SIBI ARASU

A woman wipes the head of her ailing husband using a wet cloth at the district hospital in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Monday, June 19, 2023. Several people have died in two of India’s most populous states in recent days amid a searing heat wave, as hospitals find themselves overwhelmed with patients. More than hundred people in the Uttar Pradesh state, and dozens in neighboring Bihar state have died due to heat-related illness.Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

BALLIA, India (AP) — Nearly 170 people have died in two of India’s most populous states in recent days amid a sweltering heat wave, officials said Monday, as hospitals are overwhelmed with patients and routine power outages add to the challenges.

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, 119 people have died from heat-related illnesses over the last several days while in neighboring Bihar state 47 people have died, according to local news reports and health officials.

The largest hospital in Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh is unable to accommodate more patients, officials said, and its morgue was overwhelmed after 54 people died due to the heat. Some families were asked to take the bodies of their relatives home.

While northern regions of India are known for sweltering heat during the summer months, temperatures have been consistently above normal, according to the Indian Meteorological Department, with highs in recent days reaching 43.5 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit). A heat wave is declared in India if temperatures are at least 4.5 degrees Celsius above normal or if the temperature is above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

“We have been issuing heat wave warnings for the past few days,” said Atul Kumar Singh, a scientist at the IMD.

Despite the warnings, government officials did not ask people to brace for the heat until Sunday, when the death toll began to increase.

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