An estimated one million people reportedly waited in the sun for hours at the ceremony near Mumbai.
Eleven people in India have died of heat stroke after an estimated 1 million spectators waited hours in the sun at a government-sponsored awards ceremony, officials said.
Some 50 people were hospitalized and another 600 fell ill at Sunday’s event near the western city of Mumbai, local media reported, as temperatures approached 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity was high.
“Unfortunately, 11 of them died during treatment,” Eknath Shinde, chief minister of the state of Maharashtra, the capital of Mumbai, wrote on Twitter.
Shinde’s office described the incident as “sad and disturbing” and promised compensation to the victim’s relatives.
Senior government officials attended the ceremony, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who praised the crowd for waiting so long in the sun.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said about one million people attended an event to honor a prominent social activist, The Indian Express reported on Monday.
The opposition Congress party accused the government of negligence and said it should face criminal charges.
Heatwaves have killed more than 6,500 people in India since 2010, with temperatures hitting record highs in cities across the country last year.
Spurred on by climate change, hot weather has become harsher and more frequent across South Asia, according to scientists.
Authorities in the eastern state of West Bengal announced the closure of all schools, colleges and universities for a week starting Monday due to the scorching weather, local media reported.
Last year, India suffered a shortage of coal, the main source of electricity for the country of 1.4 billion people, as power demand peaks during hot periods.
Many parts of India depend on trains for water supply during the summer. Scientists also believe that the annual monsoon rainy season has become increasingly erratic and stronger, leading to greater flooding.