Heatwave deaths pass 600 in Pakistan

More than 600 people have died from heatstroke in southern Pakistan in last four days

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A devastating heat wave has killed more than 600 people in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi and other cities in the Sindh province over the past four days, health officials said on Tuesday.

The official death toll is 450, and recorded mostly in Karachi, but officials state hundreds more died across the Sindh province as they set up emergency medical camps in the streets, providing water and anti-dehydration salts.

"Over 200 people have also died in interior parts of Sindh due to severe heat," the chief minister of the province Syed Qaim Ali Shah told reporters.

Temperatures have touched 45 degrees Celsius recently, 7 degrees above the normal temperature for summer months.

Clouds gathered over Karachi on Tuesday and meteorologists said rain is due, but temperatures are still above normal and humidity is high.

"We are anticipating a sea breeze will set in some time tonight. The temperature will come down as the monsoon rain enters the Sindh coast, bringing rain to the city," said Ghulam Rasool, director general of the Meteorological Department.

"Our morgue is working close to its capacity. We are advising people not to delay burials and try to bury their dead as early as possible in this heat," Edhi Foundation official Anwar Kazmi told Reuters, adding they received more than 400 people suffering from dehydration or heat exhaustion.

The heat wave comes with ongoing power cuts that plague the country every summer and with Ramadan when Muslims are fasting from dawn until dusk. As they prepare food for the fast-breaking time, the electricity grid becomes overwhelmed.

The lack of electricity has also caused water pumps to fail, leading to water shortages.

Power cuts have been protested by locals in several parts of the city lately and the provincial government has been under fire for the mismanagement of power supplies.

A public holiday for government offices was announced on Tuesday to reduce electricity consumption in Karachi, which is home to 20 million people, and schools and universities postponed their exams because of the scorching weather.

More than 1,500 has been treated at Jinnah hospital, Dr. Seemi Jamali, the head of the hospital's emergency services, told reporters on Monday.

“We don't have space for more patients and many heatstroke patients are being treated in other wards," Dr. Jamali said.

In northeastern Lahore, more than 1,000 children were admitted to hospitals for heat related illnesses, with 450 of them in critical condition, local media reported.

Pakistani officials appealed to consumers to conserve power, while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered that power cuts be shortened.

TRTWorld and agencies