Death toll from India heatwave hits 539 as officials advise people not to work in the day

An Indian man sits under the hot sun next to his cattle on the outskirts of Hyderabad on May 25, 2015. More than 430 people have died in two Indian states from a days-long heatwave that has seen temperatures nudging 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fa
An Indian man sits under the hot sun next to his cattle on the outskirts of Hyderabad on May 25, 2015. More than 430 people have died in two Indian states from a days-long heatwave that has seen temperatures nudging 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), officials said May 25. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Soaring temperatures have gripped parts of southern and northern India in an extreme heatwave that has killed more than 500 people and looks set to continue this week, officials said on Monday, advising workers not to work during the hottest daytime hours.

The hottest place in India was Allahabad, a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which saw the mercury rise to 47.7 degrees C on Sunday, while the capital Delhi recorded a high of 43.5 deg C.

Most of the 539 recorded deaths have been of construction workers, the elderly or the homeless in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, said officials, but some deaths have also occurred in Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. The Indian Meteorological Department has issued a red warning to affected regions saying that the heatwave conditions are likely to continue over coming days.

Director of Andhra Pradesh's Disaster Management Department K. Dhananjaya Reddy said 325 people had died of sunstroke or dehydration in the state in the last three days. "We are advising people not to go to work between 10am to 4pm," said Mr Reddy. "We have also opened centres in different places specially in urban areas for the distribution of water and butter milk."

The government has cancelled the leave of all doctors as hospitals were being flooded with cases of heat-stroke, he said, adding that compensation of 100,000 rupees (S$2,105) will be given to families of people who had died.

While in the neighbouring state of Telangana, where 204 people have died, officials have advised people to stay indoors during peak afternoon hours, drink plenty of fluids and wear loose clothing.

Taxi drivers in Kolkata - capital of West Bengal state where four deaths have been reported - refused to work between 11am and 4pm after two cabbies died in their cars last week.

The monsoon, predicted to hit southern India's coastline on May 31, will bring some relief from the high temperatures, said weather officials.