About eleven people have reportedly died from heatstroke, with many hospitalized after attending an awards ceremony in India’s Maharashtra state.
India recorded its hottest February since 1901 this year, and the country’s weather department has also forecasted an “enhanced probability” of heatwaves between March and May.
The event was organized at the Kharghar International Corporate Park grounds to confer an award on social worker Dattatreya Narayan Dharmadhikari, popularly known as Appasaheb Dharmadhikari.
It was attended by top politicians, including India’s Home Minister Amit Shah and leaders from the state’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The government-sponsored event took place in open ground under a blazing sun and lasted for several hours.
Thousands of people attended Sunday’s event, which was held to felicitate a prominent social activist.
Many people complained of dehydration and other heat-related ailments after attending the function.
Navi Mumbai, a city close to the financial hub, Mumbai, where the event was held, recorded a maximum temperature of 38C (100F) on Sunday.
Health experts have advised people to stay out of the sun during the peak heat hours of 11 am to 4 pm, especially during April, which is considered to be one of the hottest months in India.
Officials said that refreshments had been provided at the venue throughout the day and that booths had been set up to provide medical aid to people, but opposition parties alleged that the event was mismanaged and that it should not have been held at this time of the year.
Local media reported that hundreds of thousands of people attended the event and that it went on for over three hours.
Numerous people complained of dehydration, high blood pressure and exhaustion, while close to two dozen people were admitted to the hospital.
Maharashtra Chief Minister, Eknath Shinde called the incident “unexpected and painful” and announced 500,000 rupees ($6,102; £4,913) as compensation to the families of each of the deceased.
He said the government would provide free treatment to those who fell ill during the event.
Opposition leaders have accused the government of jeopardising people’s lives. Former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the event had “not been planned properly” and called for an investigation.