A scorching heat wave kills 14 in India ahead of a final round of election voting on Saturday

PATNA, India (AP) — A blistering heat wave has killed at least 14 people, including 10 election officials, in eastern India with temperatures soaring up to 49.9 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the country this week, officials said Friday.

The weeklong heat wave has forced schools to close at several places and raised the risk of heatstroke for outdoor laborers.

A statement by the Bihar state government said 14 people have died in the state, including five in Bhojpur and three in Rohtas districts, with day temperatures rising to 44 Celsius (111 Fahrenheit).

The heat wave came as hundreds of millions of Indians have been voting in a 6-week long general election, increasing health risks as they waited in long lines to cast their ballots. The seventh and final round of voting will be held on Saturday.

The counting of votes will take place on June 4.

The sizzling temperatures also take a toll on animals, putting them at risk of dehydration and heatstroke.

April, May and June are always hot in most parts of India before monsoon rains bring cooler temperatures. But extreme heat is fast becoming a public health crisis in India, with the warm weather getting more intense since the past decade and creating severe water shortages.

A study by World Weather Attribution, an academic group that examines the source of extreme heat, found that a searing heat wave in April — that struck parts of Asia — was made at least 45 times more likely in some parts of the continent by climate change.

Climate experts say extreme heat in South Asia during the pre-monsoon season is becoming more frequent. The study found that extreme temperatures are now about 0.85 C (1.5 F) hotter in the region because of global warming.

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