Weeks of sweltering temperatures have caused more than 160 deaths in southern and eastern parts of the country , officials said, warning that any relief from monsoon rains was still likely weeks away. IN PICS Most of the heat-wave victims were laborers and farmers in the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, though temperatures elsewhere in country have also hit 45 degrees Celsius.Schools were closed last week in Odisha until at least April 26. Officials in Andhra Pradesh were giving out free water and buttermilk to help people stay hydrated. And everywhere, people have been urged to stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day.YK Reddy, a state meteorological official, said the temperatures were about 4-5 degrees Celsius hotter than normal for April. “Normally such high temperatures are recorded in the month of May,” he said.Source: IMDPolice have reported 55 heat-related deaths in Odisha and at least 45 in Andhra Pradesh. Sixty-six were reported in Telangana, though the state’s Deputy Chief Minister, Mohammed Mahmood Ali, said the causes of death were still being verified.Meanwhile, a 12-year-old girl in the drought-stricken Maharashtra died from the heat while fetching water on Wednesday.Making matters worse, India is grappling with severe water shortages and drought affecting more than 300 million people – a quarter of the country’s population. Thousands of distressed farmers have committed suicide, tens of thousands of farm animals have died, and crops have perished, with rivers, lakes and ponds drying up and groundwater tables sinking.Scrambling to deal with the crisis, officials have sent water tankers to worst-hit regions in Maharashtra, banning people from drilling deep wells and ordering farmers to shift away from growing water-guzzling sugarcane crops.advertisementThe heat wave in India coincides with record-high temperatures across the globe. On Tuesday, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said March’s average global temperature of 12.7 degrees Celsius was not only the hottest March, but continues a record 11-month streak that started last May.Source: IMDFor southern India, this is the second consecutive year marred by a deadly heat wave. Last year, around 2,500 people died in scorching temperatures before the monsoon rains in early June.But while heat waves are relatively common during summers, authorities have done little to ensure water security or prepare urban populations for the risks.