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Rain cools off heat-struck Indian region

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NEW DELHI, June 10 (Reuters) - Pre-monsoon showers have at last brought down temperatures in a region of India where more than 1,400 people have died in a severe heat wave, meteorologists said on Tuesday.

A pre-monsoon breeze blew in Hyderabad, capital of the worst-hit state of Andhra Pradesh, on Tuesday morning after the three-week heat wave in which temperatures rose as high as 49 degrees Celsius (120.20 Fahrenheit).

They have since dropped by four to eight degrees Celsius and in Hyderabad dipped to 39C (102.2F) after 0.4 mm of rain fell on Monday.

According to the Meteorological Centre, cloud formations have led to falls in day-time temperatures in almost all parts of Andhra Pradesh.

The weather centre said Hyderabad was likely to see more pre-monsoon showers in coming days, with temperatures remaining below 40C (104F).

"The heat wave conditions are likely to abate further in the next two days," C.V.V. Bhadram, director of the state's Meteorological Centre, told Reuters.

"Moderate heat-wave conditions are likely to continue at only at a few isolated places for a day or two."

He said the forecast for the next 48 hours was for isolated rain and thunder showers.

More than 80 deaths have been reported in Andhra Pradesh since Saturday, taking the death toll from the heat this hot season to about 1,400. More than 100 people have died elsewhere in India, in Pakistan and in Bangladesh.

Most of the dead have been hawkers, beggars and the homeless, but they include an Australian tourist who suffered heatstroke while travelling by train in northern India on Saturday.

Vital monsoon rains have come late to India this year, after failing last year with catastrophic consequences for farmers.

The monsoon hit the southern Indian state of Kerala on Sunday, eight days behind its normal schedule of June 1, and is expected to bring more rain there over the next two days.

In coming weeks, the rains are expected to advance slowly to the rest of the country, and should reach the northern plains by the end of the month.

The June-September monsoon is crucial to India's economy as about 70 percent of its one billion people live off farming and agriculture makes up about a quarter of the economy.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation: For more humanitarian news and analysis, please visit https://www.trust.org/alertnet