Karachi heatwave claims over 120 lives

Published June 21, 2015
Men move the body of a deceased, who died due to intense hot weather, at Edhi morgue.- Reuters
Men move the body of a deceased, who died due to intense hot weather, at Edhi morgue.- Reuters
An Edhi volunteer sits beside a window as he waits for relatives of a deceased, who died due to intense heat,  to collect the body.- Reuters
An Edhi volunteer sits beside a window as he waits for relatives of a deceased, who died due to intense heat, to collect the body.- Reuters

KARACHI: The scorching heatwave that has gripped Karachi since the start of Ramazan claimed the lives of more than 120 people till late Sunday night, according to health and rescue officials.

“So far, we have received over 50 dead bodies at Jinnah Post-Graduate Medical Centre (JPMC) since Saturday night,” said Dr. Seemin Jamali, head of the hospital’s emergency department.

Talking to media personnel, Dr. Jamali said mortality rate for patients with heat stroke was very high, which was why several of those admitted to JPMC alive could not be revived. She said in total more than 100 people, whether admitted alive or dead, had lost their lives owing to heat-related illnesses at JPMC alone.

“They may have been suffering from different diseases but most of them died of heat stroke or heat exhaustion,” said Dr. Jamali.

A large number of the deceased were old people, she said, but added that a few young patients were admitted in critical condition and later passed away during treatment.

Quoting some of her patients, Dr. Jamali said they had left their homes on Sunday and collapsed.

Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Health Director Salma Kausar said 27 dead bodies had been brought to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in the past 24 hours, all of whom had died due to heat-related illnesses.

An Edhi Foundation spokesperson said in the past 24 hours his foundation registered 150 dead at the Sohrab Goth Edhi morgue.

“Most of them were brought by their relatives,” said Anwar Kazmi, the Edhi Foundation spokesperson.

“We can’t be sure about the exact causes of their deaths— whether or not they died of heat cannot be ascertained,” said Mr. Kazmi.

But Kazmi did say that relatives of those who died told Edhi volunteers that due to extreme weather conditions, they could not keep dead bodies of their dear ones at home.

While Saturday was the hottest day of this year’s summer in Karachi, where the mercury shot to 45 degrees Celsius, the maximum temperature of 48 degrees Celsius was recorded in three districts of Sindh — Jacobabad, Larkana and Sukkur.

An official at the Pakistan Meteorological Department told Dawn that wind pattern indicated that the relatively cool sea breeze was not blowing and the city was getting hot continental air.

He said that the minimum temperature recorded in Karachi on Saturday was 32 degrees Celsius while humidity — a measure of the amount of moisture in the air — was 45 per cent.

He said that the weather in the city on Sunday was expected to be hot / very hot and dry and the maximum temperature was expected to remain between 40 and 42 degrees Celsius. However, the Met department’s website shows the maximum temperature to range between 44 and 46 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

The highest temperature Karachi has ever experienced was 48 degrees Celsius on May 9, 1938.

The high temperatures were made worse by frequent power outages, sparking protests in several parts of the city of 20 million.

Electricity cuts in turn crippled Karachi's water supply system, hampering the pumping of millions of gallons of water to consumers, the state-run water utility said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has warned electric supply companies that he would not tolerate power outages during Ramazan, an official in Sharif's office said.

Karachi University in a statement said it had postponed its exams for at least a month due to the extreme weather.

Doctors have advised avoiding exposure to the sun and wearing light cotton clothes.

Also Read: Six die as punishing heatwave bakes Sindh.

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