Mass funeral for unclaimed victims of deadly Karachi heatwave

Published June 26, 2015
Pakistani Edhi charity volunteers bury the bodies of unclaimed heatwave victims at a graveyard in Karachi on June 26, 2015. —AFP
Pakistani Edhi charity volunteers bury the bodies of unclaimed heatwave victims at a graveyard in Karachi on June 26, 2015. —AFP
Edhi volunteers offer funeral prayers for the unclaimed heatwave victims in Karachi on June 26, 2015.– AFP
Edhi volunteers offer funeral prayers for the unclaimed heatwave victims in Karachi on June 26, 2015.– AFP
Pakistani Edhi charity volunteers bury the bodies of unclaimed heatwave victims at a graveyard in Karachi on June 26, 2015. —AFP
Pakistani Edhi charity volunteers bury the bodies of unclaimed heatwave victims at a graveyard in Karachi on June 26, 2015. —AFP
Abdul Sattar Edhi, (C), head of the charity Edhi Welfare Trust, sits on a wheelchair as he offers funeral prayers along with volunteers for the unclaimed heatwave victims in Karachi on June 26, 2015. —AFP
Abdul Sattar Edhi, (C), head of the charity Edhi Welfare Trust, sits on a wheelchair as he offers funeral prayers along with volunteers for the unclaimed heatwave victims in Karachi on June 26, 2015. —AFP

KARACHI: The Edhi Foundation on Friday held a mass funeral for 50 victims of Karachi's worst heatwave in decades, whose bodies had gone unclaimed.

More than 1,000 people have died as a result of days of scorching temperatures in Sindh, with the sprawling metropolis Karachi the worst-affected city.

Take a look: Heatwave death toll in Sindh tops 1,000.

After peaking at around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) last weekend, the heat has subsided to the mid-30s and the city's customary cooling sea breeze has started up, bringing relief to its 20 million inhabitants.

At times this week the city's morgues struggled to cope with the influx of the dead, many of whom were elderly, destitute or drug addicts.

Edhi Foundation's founder Abdul Sattar Edhi was joined by dozens of volunteers and passers-by in offering prayers for the dead as they were buried in white cotton shrouds.

“In my whole life I have not seen such a large number of deaths due to heatstroke,” Edhi, who is around 90 years of age, told AFP.

"It is a natural calamity."

Mohammad Amaullah, an Edhi official, said most of the 50 were heroin addicts. Karachi, Pakistan's largest port, is a major transit point for heroin produced in Afghanistan.

An ambulance driver who has been transporting bodies for the Edhi Foundation said drug addicts were the worst-affected victims of the heatwave.

“I picked up bodies from beneath the Rexer Bridge, where heroin addicts frequently hang out,” driver Irfan Ahmed said.

Karachi hospitals have treated nearly 80,000 people for the effects of heatstroke and dehydration during the week, according to medical officials.

Power cuts have contributed to the suffering, preventing fans and air-conditioners working and hampering water pumps.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a statement blaming K-Electric, the city's power company, for the crisis and threatening revenge.

Many of those who died were outdoor manual labourers, who are paid by the day and may be reluctant to stop work as it would mean losing income.

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