NEW DELHI (AP) — Authorities in a parched western Indian state sprinkled water in the streets and awaited the arrival of a special water train on Saturday, two days after temperatures reached a record-high 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit).
Several hospitals in the desert state of Rajasthan, which has been hit worst by a heat wave that has spread to many parts of India, have set aside beds to treat heatstroke victims. Television video Saturday showed heatstroke patients being wheeled in on stretchers, with paramedics covering them with ice packs and pouring water on them.
The main summer months in India — April, May and June — are always excruciatingly hot across most of the country, before monsoon rains bring cooler temperatures.
In Rajasthan on Saturday, municipal workers sprinkled water in residential areas of the city of Bikaner and a train filled with 2.5 million liters (660,000 gallons) of water headed toward the town of Bhilwara.
Indian media reported 16 deaths in Rajasthan, where nearly 17,000 villages in 19 of 33 districts were facing water shortages.
The India Meteorological Department said that maximum temperatures will likely fall by 2-3 degrees Celsius (4-6 degrees Fahrenheit) in Rajasthan next week. But no significant change is expected in northern India.
The blistering heat also is sweeping across large parts of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, with six deaths reported there in the past month.
On Thursday, the city of Philodi in Rajasthan state suffered through the country's highest recorded temperature — 51 C (124 F). India's meteorological department said the previous high was 50.6 C (123 F), reached in 1956 in the city of Alwar, also in Rajasthan.
Heatstroke has claimed 109 lives in southern Andhra Pradesh state, where pre-monsoon showers have broken the hot spell, a state government statement said.
The intense heat wave in western Gujarat state has claimed 17 lives this month, with temperatures touching 48 C (118 F).
Officials have shut schools in several states, including Rajasthan, New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, to protect children from the heat wave.
Authorities have issued a list of precautions, urging people to stay indoors, shun unnecessary travel in the sun, increase intake of water and seek medical attention if they feel the symptoms of heatstroke.
Authorities issued a severe heat wave alert for the weekend in Gujarat, Rajasthan and parts of the central state of Madhya Pradesh. That means the areas can expect temperatures of at least 47 C (117 F).
The monsoon normally hits southern India in the first week of June and covers the rest of the nation within a month. It is especially eagerly awaited this year because several parts of the country are reeling under a drought brought on by two years of weak rains.