At least 40 people died in Bihar on Saturday, June 15, due to heat wave with Aurangabad, Gaya and Nawada being the worst-hit districts. Around 27 deaths were reported from Aurangabad alone, while 12 people died in Gaya. More than 100 people have been hospitalised in the state in the last 24 hours.
Dr Surendra Prasad Singh, a doctor at one of Aurangabad's state-run hospital, reportedly said that all the people who died were suffering from high-temperature fever.
The state is also grappling with Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) outbreak that has killed around 84 children in two hospitals in Muzaffarpur as of Sunday. Deaths due to AES are being caused because of excessive heat and humidity, according to the doctors.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar extended his condolence to the families and announced "an ex gratia payment of Rs 4 lakh to the next of the kin of those who have died". He also announced that those belonging to the BPL categories are being given Rs 20,000 each for the last rites.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan arrived in the state capital on Sunday to review public health measures for containment and management of the AES. He had previously said that the Centre was constantly monitoring the situation and supporting state health authorities to manage the encephalitis cases.
Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey also said that the state government is doing its best to save children. "We are trying everything and anything that can save children's lives. Everything is being made available from medicines to doctors. We have even called doctors and nurses from AIIMS in Patna," he reportedly said.
Additional health director Ashok Kumar Singh reportedly named heat wave and hypoglycaemia as the cause of the deaths. "The three Hs — heat wave, humidity and hypoglycaemia — are causing the deaths of children, who are suffering from symptoms akin to AES. Rains will reduce the effects of the disease. It has happened in the past too," Singh said.
On steps to check hypoglycemia, Pandey reportedly said, "Integrated Child Development Services has been running nutrition programmes through Anganwadi. Our immediate objective is to ensure parents' awareness to ensure children do not sleep without food at night and wear proper clothes and avoid going out in the sun."
"Government has been working from the beginning. There is no lack of medicines. However, there are lack of beds and ICUs as compared to the emergency situation at present," said Suresh Sharma, Bihar Urban Development Minister.
However, relatives of the patients admitted at Sri Krishna Medical College & Hospital in Muzaffarpur alleged that there were no doctors on duty available at midnight. "There are no arrangements here, doctors are not paying proper attention. Every hour, more children are dying. Since midnight, there are no doctors, only a few nurses are on duty," the father of a patient said.
Meanwhile, the state government declared on Saturday that all schools in the city will be closed till June 19 because of the rising temperatures. The shutdown was earlier supposed to end on June 16.
The country is witnessing its worst heatwave this year with four cities in north India on a record high. There have been 32 heatwaves this year in India, the second-longest spell of high temperatures in the country's recorded history. Delhi, Churu in Rajasthan, and Banda and Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh have witnessed temperatures of 48 degrees Celsius and above.
An India Today report quoted health experts as stating that the condition of AES in Bihar will only aggravate until and unless rainfall takes place, as the deaths are being caused by excessive heat.