Eleven individuals died due to heatstroke following a government-funded awards ceremony in Indian state of Maharashtra where an estimated one million attendees waited in the sun for several hours.
According to local media reports, temperatures soared to nearly 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) with significant humidity near Mumbai on Sunday, causing around 300 individuals to feel unwell, with 20 of them requiring hospitalisation.
Home Minister Amit Shah and other senior government officials were present at the ceremony and applauded the crowd for enduring the scorching sun.
The office of Maharashtra state’s Chief Minister Eknath Shinde expressed deep sorrow and concern over the “disturbing incident” and assured compensation to the families of the victims.
The Congress party, the main opposition in India, accused the government of neglecting its duty and demanded that it face criminal charges.
Heatwaves have claimed the lives of over 6,500 individuals in India since 2010, and many cities across the country experienced record-breaking temperatures last year.
Scientists have linked the increasing intensity and frequency of these heatwaves to climate change, and they believe that the situation is becoming more severe in South Asia.
Local media reported that officials in the eastern state of West Bengal declared a one-week closure of all schools, colleges, and universities starting from Monday due to the intense heat.
India faced coal shortages last year, which is the country’s primary source of electricity for its 1.4 billion population, as electricity usage surged during the heatwave. Also, during the summer season, several regions in India depend on trains to deliver water.
Scientists believe that the annual monsoon season is also becoming more unpredictable and stronger, resulting in more severe flooding.