DİHA - Dicle News Agency


Pakistan heatwave death toll soars past 750

24 June
11:05 2015

NEWS DESK (DİHA) - The death toll from a severe heatwave in southern Pakistan has risen to more than 750, with the threat of more deaths to come as temperatures remain unseasonably high for the fourth consecutive day.

At least 758 people have died of heatstroke, dehydration or other heat-related illnesses in Karachi, the country's largest city, since Saturday, according to government figures. "The mortuary is overflowing, they are piling bodies one on top of the other," said Dr Seemin Jamali, a senior official at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), the city's largest government hospital.

"We are doing everything that is humanly possible here," she said, adding that since Saturday, the JPMC had seen more than 5,000 patients with heat-related symptoms. Of those, 384 patients had died, she said. "Until [Tuesday] night, it was unbelievable. We were getting patients coming into the emergency ward every minute," she said. Among those who have died, most have been either elderly or poor, officials say.

"Mostly people coming here are facing heatstroke and they are old people. Their ages are around 45 to 50 years old, so the older they are, the more serious problems they are facing," Junaid Ahmad, a volunteer, told Reuters news agency.

Public holiday declared

The provincial government in Sindh has declared Wednesday a public holiday for schools and government offices due to the extreme heat, but many private offices have remained open. A state of emergency has also been declared in the province's hospitals, while the government has also set up several heatstroke aid centres. "We are launching awareness programmes through radio channels and in hospitals, that people must not expose themselves to direct heat and must drink plenty of water," Jam Mehtab Dahar, the provincial health minister, told.

Temperatures have hit as high as 43 degrees Celsius since Saturday, accompanied by high humidity and a lull in the city's usually cooling sea breeze. The maximum temperature recorded in Karachi on Tuesday was 41C, while other cities in the province such as Sukkur, Jacobabad, and Larkana, hit highs of 45C, 44C and 43C respectively. The spike in temperatures comes as many in Muslim-majority Pakistan are fasting during daylight hours to observe Ramadan, further exacerbating the situation.