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Fire threat remains high amid sweltering heat, India's PM warns

By Ashley Williams
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Fire threat remains high amid sweltering heat, India's PM warns
Firefighters take action after a fire broke out in a storeroom at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in Chennai, India on Wednesday April 27. All patients were evacuated to safety and no casualties were reported. Photo by Idrees Mohammed/EPA-EFE/

April 27 (UPI) -- Sweltering heat has heightened the fire threat across India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Wednesday as the country's fourth largescale landfill blaze this month continued spreading toxic smoke outside of the capital.

Modi told state government heads via video conference that the temperatures impacting India's 1.4 billion residents are rising earlier than usual, resulting in several fire outbreaks over the past few days.

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On Tuesday night, a landfill site caught fire in Bhalswa Jahangir Pur, located in the northwest of the state of Delhi, forcing a nearby school to close.

Crews struggled to fight it into Wednesday by the time Modi issued his warning, and its cause remains under investigation.

"During such a time, we are seeing increasing incidents of fires in various places -- in jungles, important buildings and in hospitals -- in the past few days," Modi said, according to NDTV.

He called on officials to prioritize fire-safety audits for hospitals, where lax safety enforcement results in dozens of reported fire-related fatalities annually.

A fire broke out at Chennai's Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital Wednesday morning, and 33 patients were successfully evacuated.

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India's forests also face threats from potential fires, with more than 500 blazes reported in the northwest Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, located in the Himalayas, since April 1.

India's summer months run from April to June, when scorching temperatures are the norm, regularly exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit before monsoon rains arrive in June.

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