The deaths of seven disabled children are thought to be linked to contaminated drinking water at a government home for people with special needs in northern India, officials said on Friday.

Since April 21, a total of 15 children aged between 8 and 12 years have been admitted to a nearby hospital in Jaipur city after falling ill.

Meanwhile, a probe was ordered to investigate the deaths.

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“The children were brought in with similar complaints of diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration.

“Most of them went into septic shock, which can be a result of toxins or sometimes a result of bacterial infection in the body,’’ hospital superintendent Ashok Gupta, said.

Police said that preliminary investigations showed the children had fallen ill after consuming dirty water but autopsy reports have yet to reveal the exact cause.

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A report released by International Charity Water Aid said India had the world’s highest number of people without access to clean water at 76 million.

“These people are forced to buy water at high prices or use supplies that were unsafe for consumption,’’ the report said.

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The deaths have been reported as a searing heatwave prevails over large swathes of the country and 330 million people, and over a quarter of the country’s population is affected by drought.

Indian media estimate that nearly 250 people had died in the heatwave since late March, particularly in the southern and eastern regions. (dpa/NAN)