Monday April 17, 2023 – 11 people have died from heatstroke and hundreds are hospitalised after attending an open air award function attended by thousands in western India.

The government-run ceremony, that took place in western Maharashtra state, went on from early morning until the afternoon on Sunday, April 16, when temperatures in the area soared to a scorching 38C.

Thousands had gathered at a large open ground for the Maharashtra Bhushan Award event held to honour a popular local social activist in Navi Mumbai, a city adjacent to Mumbai, India’s financial hub.

It was attended by top political leaders, including Maharashtra’s chief minister Eknath Shinde, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, and India’s home minister Amit Shah.

While there were two tents to shelter VIPs, regular people who attended the event were left vulnerable and exposed to the heat.

The two tents at the large ground catered only to politicians, government officials and the media, reported news portal The Wire.

The lack of adequate measures to protect against the heat proved to be fatal.

The chief minister had earlier said that “7-8 people have died today, while 24 are being treated. This is a case of sunstroke”.

“As per the briefing received from doctors, 7-8 people have died today, while 24 are being treated,” Mr Shinde had told reporters on Sunday, April 16, while coming out from a hospital where several of the attendees were admitted. “This is a case of sunstroke.”

As of Monday, April 17, the number of deaths stood at 11 with “hundreds” of people hospitalised for urgent medical care.

Doctors also fear the death toll can rise as some of those hospitalised are said to be in a critical condition with cardiac issues, according to The Times of India.

The government has announced a compensation of Rs 500,000 (£5,000) to the families of those who died, while the deputy chief minister said the government will pay for the treatment of those suffering from heat-related illnesses.

Members of opposition parties have slammed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party state government for choosing the wrong time to hold the event and called it “negligent and careless behaviour”.

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