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Twelve die of heatstroke in Maharashtra at an award event

Published : 17 Apr 2023 10:23 PM

Twelve people have died from heatstroke while many others have been admitted to hospital after attending an awards ceremony in India's Maharashtra state.

The government-sponsored event took place in an open ground under a blazing sun and lasted for several hours.

Thousands of people attended Sunday's event, which was held to felicitate a prominent social activist.

Many people complained of dehydration and other heat-related ailments after attending the function.

Navi Mumbai - a city close to financial hub Mumbai - where the event was held, recorded a maximum temperature of 38C (100F) on Sunday. Health experts have advised people to stay out of the sun during the peak heat hours of 11am to 4pm, especially during April, which is considered to be one of the hottest months in India.

Photos of the event show thousands sitting directly under the sun, with no roof or covering providing any kind of shelter.

Officials told the media that refreshments had been provided at the venue through the day and that booths had been set up to provide medical aid to people, but opposition parties alleged that the event was mismanaged and that it should not have been held at this time of the year.

The event was organised at the Kharghar International Corporate Park grounds to confer an award on social worker Dattatreya Narayan Dharmadhikari, popularly known as Appasaheb Dharmadhikari.

It was attended by top politicians, including India's Home Minister Amit Shah and leaders from the state's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Local media reported that hundreds of thousands of people attended the event and that it went on for over three hours. Numerous people complained of dehydration, high blood pressure and exhaustion, while close to two dozen people were admitted to hospital.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde called the incident "unexpected and painful" and announced 500,000 rupees ($6,102; £4,913) as compensation to the families of each of the deceased. He said the government would provide free treatment to those who fell ill during the event.

Opposition leaders have accused the government of jeopardising people's lives. Former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the event had "not been planned properly" and called for an investigation.

Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe Patil accused the state government of negligence and said people had died because the event was held in April.

India recorded it's hottest February since 1901 this year, and the country's weather department has also forecasted an "enhanced probability" of heatwaves between March and May.