Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister, promised speedy aid to drought-stricken areas of West Bengal on Saturday (May 20) and said the government was considering a number of schemes to improve irrigation in the area.
GV PAN Dried river bridge in B/G
SC Cattle on river bed (2 shots)
SV & CU Woman and child scoop water from river bed (3 shots)
SV Woman scooping water
CU Child watching
CU Woman drinking
SV & BV Woman with water (2 shots)
CU PAN Dried field
TV Sheep foraging for grass in dried up field
SV Dead tree
SV Tree PAN TO women at well
SV Woman drawing water
SV Mrs Gandhi leave helicopter
CU Mrs Gandhi
SV Mrs Gandhi talking to people (4 shots)
SV Mrs Gandhi talks to crowd (5 shots)
Initials SGM/2308 SGM/2330
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Background: Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister, promised speedy aid to drought-stricken areas of West Bengal on Saturday (May 20) and said the government was considering a number of schemes to improve irrigation in the area.
The drought was caused by a heat wave -- now in its third week -- which forced temperatures up to 135 degrees Fahrenheit (57 Centigrade), turning the already grid land into an inferno.
About 250 lives have been claimed by the heat wave, which has been so severe that birds fell dead, threes died and wells dried up. The water shortage has been described as "serious".
In the northern state of Haryana, the heat is also reported to have fuelled a smallpox epidemic which has claimed another 200 lives. And officials said that the epidemic could not be fully contained until the monsoon begins in July.
SYNOPSIS: In West Bengal, the arid landscape of India has been turned into an inferno by a three-week heatwave. The shortage of water is a cuts...and temperatures of up to one-hundred-and-thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit have scorched the earth. In the district of Purulia, women and children are forced to dig down beneath the sand for a drink or a wash....
A drink in West Bengal may mean the difference between living and dying. Already, two-hundred-and-fifty people have died in the country...either from the lack of water, or disease caused by it. And food, too, is in short supply because sun-baked rice paddies have become impossible to cultivate.
In the intense heat, trees withered and died...and birds -- unable to find nourishment -- fell dead out of the skies. Government officials are worried that the serious drinking water problem could lead to epidemics.
On Saturday, Mrs Gandhi, the Prime Minister, visited the stricken areas and promised aid as soon as possible. She told the crowds that the government is considering a number of schemes to improve irrigation in the area. When the schemes were implemented, she said, the problems of water supply would largely be removed.
Weather experts say the heat wave is expected to continue unrelieved for some time to come.