Sixteen people have succumbed to a cholera outbreak in a tea-growing area of northeastern Indian, and the local state government has sounded an alert.
Some 150 others tested positive since the disease was reported last week in six tea gardens in Sonitpur district, about 230 kilometres (140 miles) north of Guwahati, the main city in the state of Assam.
Advertisement"Most of the casualties were reported from tea garden areas and it appears the victims were down with cholera due to poor hygiene," senior local health official Anup Bhattacharyya told AFP in Guwahati.
The deaths occurred since Tuesday, he added, with local doctors blaming delays in bringing the ill to hospitals for the toll.
"A general health alert has been sounded and all steps are being taken to deal with the outbreak," Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told AFP.
The disease, which is primarily transmitted through contaminated food and water, causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting and can fatally dehydrate a victim in a matter of hours.
Healthcare facilities in most of India's seven insurgency-riven northeastern states including Assam are primitive.
Tea pickers often live in dirty, cramped conditions without electricity or access to clean drinking water.
"There is lack of clean drinking water facilities in most of the tea gardens with the plantation management is not bothered about the issue of providing the basic amenities to the workers," Shankar Tassa, a tea garden community leader, said.
India is the world?s largest tea producer after China and produced a record crop of 980,000 tonnes last year with Assam accounting for about 55 percent of the total output.
This year's crop has been hit by drought and heavy rain, as well as a tea mosquito called helopeltis that has attacked some 100 plantations in various parts of Assam.
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