At least 11 people who sat in the open at an award event in India’s Maharashtra on Sunday have died from dehydration and heatstroke.
Scores of others were hospitalised after attending the government-sponsored Maharashtra Bhushan award event at an open ground in Navi Mumbai on a blazing day, NDTV reports, citing Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde also went to a hospital where some 50 people have been admitted with heat-related health issues.
His office has confirmed 11 deaths while officials pegged the unconfirmed number at 13. Eight of the dead were women, mostly elderly.
Home Minister Amit Shah presented the awards, instituted by the Maharashtra government, to social activist Dattatreya Narayan alias Appasaheb Dharmadhikari. The event was held at Navi Mumbai, where the day temperature was recorded at a maximum of 38 degrees Celsius.
Thousands sat under a scorching sun for over five hours (8 am to 1 pm) at the Kharghar International Corporate Park grounds while the awards were being conferred on Dharmadhikari.
Shinde and Fadnavis also attended the ceremony that started at 11.30 am and went on until 1 pm.
The ground was packed with people and equipped with audio and video facilities for them to see the event. The seating arrangement for the audience, however, had no shed over it.
Chief Minister Shinde called the incident "unfortunate" and announced a compensation of 500,000 rupees to the families of those who died.
"As per the briefing received from doctors, 7-8 people have died today, while 24 are being treated. This is a case of sunstroke. Some 50 people were admitted to the hospital, of which 24 are still there while the rest have been discharged after primary treatment," Shinde told reporters while coming out from the hospital.
"It is very unfortunate and painful that some members participating in the Maharashtra Bhushan award ceremony this morning died due to heatstroke... We share the grief of their families," Fadnavis tweeted in Marathi.
Some parts of India will see a rise in temperature by 3-5 degrees Celsius over the next five days, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Thursday.
India also reported its hottest February this year since record-keeping began in 1901, according to the IMD. Above-normal rainfall, however, kept the temperature in check in March.