Dizzying temperatures caused water shortages in thousands of Indian villages and killed hundreds more people over the past day, driving the death toll from a weekslong heat wave to at least 1,826, officials said Friday.
Meteorological officials called the heat wave "severe" and warned that it would continue for at least two days across a huge swathe of the South Asian country from Tamil Nadu in the south to the Himalayan foothill state of Himachal Pradesh.
Most of those killed by heat-related conditions including dehydration and heat stroke have been in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where 100 people died just on Thursday as temperatures hovered at about 109 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thousands of water tankers were delivering supplies to more than 4,000 villages and hamlets facing acute water shortages in the central state of Maharashtra, state officials told the Press Trust of India news agency.
People across India were plunging into rivers, staying in the shade and drinking lots of water to try to beat the heat. Scorched crops and dying wildlife were reported, with some animals succumbing to thirst.
Many farmers and construction workers struggling with poverty were still working outdoors despite the risks. They along with the impoverished elderly were among the most vulnerable.
Cooling monsoon rains were expected next week in the south before gradually advancing north.
However, forecasting service AccuWeather warned of prolonged drought conditions, with the monsoon likely to be disrupted by a more active typhoon season over the Pacific.
"While there will be some rainfall on the region, the pattern could evolve into significant drought and negatively impact agriculture from central India to much of Pakistan," senior meteorologist Jason Nicholls at AccuWeather said in a statement.