Pakistan heat wave death toll surpasses 500

Record temperatures in Karachi as holy month of Ramadan gets underway
Pakistan heat wave death toll surpasses 500

Paramedics from Pakistan's Rangers attend to patients at a heatstroke center in the Kala Pul area of Karachi (Photo by ucanews.com)

ucanews.com reporter, Karachi
Pakistan
June 23, 2015
A sweltering heat wave in southern Pakistan has killed more than 500 people and left hundreds more hospitalized over the past three days, officials said.

Temperatures soared to 45 degrees Celsius, a 30-year high in the worst-hit city of Karachi, as scores of patients inundated hospitals after suffering from heatstroke since Friday.

The Sindh provincial government has imposed a state of emergency in all state-run hospitals to deal with the sudden influx of patients, just as the fasting month of Ramadan gets underway. 

Dr Seemi Jamali, head of the emergency department of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical and College, confirmed the death of 200 people.

“Most of the victims were elderly people about 60 years of age, but a few young people were also brought to the emergency room with heat-related problems,” Dr Jamali told ucanews.com.

“More than 3,000 people have been treated in the emergency department for complaints of heatstroke,” she said.  

According to a tally received from other medical centers, 84 people have reportedly died in Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, 84 in Civil Hospital, 17 in Lyari Hospital, 25 in Liaquat National Hospital, 38 in Indus Hospital, 15 in Sindh Government Hospital, 32 in Qatar Hospital, 17 at the National Institute for Heart Diseases and 15 deaths have been recorded at Ziauddin Hospital.

Officials warn that the death toll could actually be much higher as many people are believed to have buried their dead without bringing them to a medical facility. 

A spokesman for the Edhi Foundation, a non-profit social welfare organization which has the largest fleet of ambulances in the country, told ucanews.com that its main morgue at Sohrab Goth was left with no space to keep or receive more bodies.

The government’s Rangers force has set up ten heatstroke relief centers across Karachi to extend emergency aid.

A statement by the Rangers said that doctors and paramedics equipped with modern medical equipment are treating incoming heatstroke patients.

Frequent power outages worsened the situation in Karachi, a sprawling city of 20 million people.

Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has convened a meeting of K-Electric, which is responsible for the city’s power, to discuss steps to improve the electricity supply.

The Sindh government has also ordered the closure of markets and shops at 9pm to meet the soaring power demand. He also directed government officials to keep office air conditioners shut until after 11am.

According to the meteorological office, maximum temperatures in the city will range between 38 and 40 degrees centigrade during the next 24 hours

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“Weather in the city is likely to improve on Tuesday evening as pre-monsoon winds will enter Sindh,” Ghulam Rasool, a senior official of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, told ucanews.com.

Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission (HRCP) said the government could have taken more preventative measures.

In a statement issued on Monday, HRCP chairwomen Zohra Yusuf said “nature alone is not to blame for the high death toll”.

“Much more could have been done to raise awareness among the citizens about the hazards of extended exposure to the elements in the summer and how to cope,” she said. “The electricity shortage and the related water crisis also seem to have had an impact.”

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