Pakistan morgues overflow as heat wave claims more lives

Death toll from searing heatwave in Pakistan tops 1,000 as morgues and graveyards are overwhelmed

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

More than 1,000 people have been killed as the the worst heat wave to hit Pakistan's southern city of Karachi in nearly 35 years continues to claim lives as morgues run out of space.

Bodies lie outside the Edhi Foundation's morgue in Karachi, the biggest in the city, because it is filled to capacity. The stench of death is felt from outside as air conditioning units in the morgue no longer work.

Anwar Kazmi, a senior official of the Edhi Foundation, said officials are blaming each other while people are dying.

"We pay tributes to the doctors and staff of the government hospitals who are working tirelessly treating endless number of patients. The Sindh government has done nothing except blaming K-electric for the deaths."

K-electric is Karachi's power supplier company which says the government owes them more than $1 billion in unpaid bills. The private company also blames illegal connections and surge in demand for the latest power cuts.

Temperatures have touched 45 degrees Celsius over the weekend, 7 degrees above the normal temperature for summer months and the hottest since 1981. It has been cooler in the last two days but the electricity shortages and Ramadan fasting still put lives in danger.

"The death toll from the heat wave has now crossed over 1,000 mark. These deaths have mainly taken place at government-run hospitals and few major private hospitals," Kazmi said. "There are lots of unreported deaths at small private hospitals."

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

Hospitals are overwhelmed with the influx of patients who suffer from heatstroke, dehydration or other heat-related illnesses, and appealed for bed sheets, cold water and other basic items from volunteers.

In the city's largest hospital, Dr Seemin Jamali told Al Jazeera that they have received more than 8,000 patients with heat-related symptoms and they "are doing everything that is humanly possible."

The government ordered many public places and government offices to close early to preserve power, it does not seem to have eased the pain.

Even for the dead the ordeal is not over. The families of the victims are in search for spaces to bury their loved ones as Karachi's graveyard spaces have been overburdened by the sudden spike in deaths.

In neighbouring India where more than 2,500 people died because of scorching heat days ago, many fasting Muslims are concerned about the lack of rain, and going without water during the hot days.

"We have not seen this kind of heat in decades. We observe dawn to dusk fasts; timings are quite long and hot and humid conditions are making things unbearable for us. We are praying to Allah for rains," Rafat Alam, a Muslim from northern India, told Anadolu Agency.

It is predicted that India will get less monsoon rains than average this year, raising fears for this year's crops. Farmers in India are already in dire straits because of natural disasters that ruined their harvests. And Muslim farmers say they reserve special prayers for a good monsoon this Ramadan.

"Definitely what a farmer will ask for during this Ramadan season, apart from forgiveness, is for copious rains. We are bit fearful after the meteorological department raised apprehensions about a good monsoon, but still hope the almighty will be kind," farmer Ishaq Hasan said.

TRTWorld and agencies