The number of cases rose almost 350,000 to 23.3 million, the second-highest after the United States.

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India’s coronavirus death toll surpassed 250,000 on Wednesday, official data showed, as the pandemic raged across the vast country of 1.3 billion people.

According to the health ministry, 4,205 people died in the past 24 hours -- a new record -- taking total fatalities to 254,197.

The number of cases rose almost 350,000 to 23.3 million, the second-highest after the United States.

While the pandemic is easing in major cities, the virus appears to be running unchecked in India’s vast rural hinterland where two-thirds of its people live.

Many experts believe the official numbers of people dying in India, which has one of the world’s poorest-funded health care systems, are an underestimate.

"Deaths are much higher than what our official data is revealing," Anant Bhan, an independent health policy and bioethics researcher, told AFP.