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Five die seeking water in parched India

Do Not UseDo Not Use 17/05/2016

Five villagers in a drought-hit part of northern India have died while trying to restore a disused drinking well.

The men died after inhaling poisonous gases that had collected in the well in Haryana state, a local official said.

Much of India is in the grip of a severe drought, which has killed at least 300 people.

Haryana and two other states were last week criticised by India's Supreme Court for failing to acknowledge the water shortage problem.

Some local reports said the men, from the Jind district of Haryana, had decided to try to get the well working again to alleviate an acute shortage of drinking water in the area.

But local deputy police chief Virender Singh denied that they needed drinking water, saying the men had been hoping to use the well for bathing and washing purposes.

"The well had not been in use for about five to six years and a poisonous gas had formed in its depths," he told the AFP news agency. "The five men inhaled that and died".

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Haryana, along with Gujarat and Bihar, was heavily criticised last week by the Supreme Court for failing to declare a drought in their regions, while a significant number of their people were suffering from a lack of water.

At least 330 million people are affected by drought in India, which is taking place as a heat wave with temperatures in excess of 40C extends across much of the country.

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