Image: People rest under bus
Saurabh Das  /  AP
Muslim pilgrims on their way to Ajmer Sharif shrine in New Delhi, India, take a break from the heat under their bus on Friday.
updated 6/26/2009 8:24:01 AM ET 2009-06-26T12:24:01

At least 24 people have died in a scorching heat wave that has swept over half a dozen Indian states, officials said Friday.

Blistering hot, dry winds have swept across most parts of north and central India, wilting plants and forcing people to avoid the outdoors when they can. In the cities, large crowds of office workers gather around stalls selling cold fruit drinks.

The highest temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit this week was recorded in Bundelkhand district of northern Uttar Pradesh state. In parts of the state, villagers performed rituals to induce rain, pouring water on children lying on the ground with their hands clasped toward the sky.

Huge swathes of rural farmland has turned bone-dry as farmers await the annual monsoon rains, which are already delayed and expected to be lighter than usual, according to the government.

At least five people have died from heatstroke this week in the state, according to Raja Ram Srivastava, a revenue department official.

Image: Ritual to produce rain
Rajesh Kumar Singh  /  AP
Women in Nari Bari, India, throw water on children lying in sludge as a ritual to induce rain on Friday.
Authorities said four people died in eastern Orissa state, according to O.J. Choudhary, an official at the revenue department, which monitors heat-related deaths. Thirty-nine other suspected heat wave deaths are being investigated, he added.

In northern Bihar state, at least 15 people have died in 10 days of intense heat, according to a local disaster management official who refused to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak to reporters.

Those killed in the heat wave are usually poor and often homeless.

As temperatures have soared, most parts of north and central India have suffered severe water and power shortages, leading to protests by residents, news reports said.

The meteorological department said the sweltering conditions were likely to continue for at least two more days.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,