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KARACHI: As the mercury surged to 40.5 degrees Celsius in Karachi on Monday, the city and provincial authorities geared up efforts to save lives during extreme weather conditions that would prevail for the next three days.

Nawabshah and Mithi were the hottest places in Sindh where maximum temperature recorded on Monday was 43 degrees Celsius. Hyderabad and Sukkur also experienced hot weather with the mercury touching 42 and 40.5 degrees centigrade, respectively.

The Met Office said that Karachi, like other parts of the province, would experience hot to very hot weather on Tuesday (today) and the maximum temperature would range between 41 and 42 degrees Celsius.

In view of the forecast, the Karachi mayor announced setting up of 12 centres in the city’s hospitals for heatstroke patients and the provincial disaster management authority was spearheading contingency plans across Sindh.

Government officials feared that the coming three days would be highly dangerous and ordered all the hospitals across the province to be on high alert.

According to researchers at Climate Central, when the “temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius it becomes difficult for the body to cool itself”. This can lead to dehydration, exhaustion, dizziness, and other problems in the body — and often even death.

“We are making all-out efforts to save the people of whole Sindh from the situation that had struck Karachi two years ago, which killed hundreds of people in the metropolis,” said a senior official.

Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar chaired a meeting at the KMC building in which he stressed upon all stakeholders to strictly observe the standard operating procedures to save precious lives.

He said 12 centres had been established in different KMC hospitals, while Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and Karachi Institute of Heart Diseases would also take care of heatstroke patients round the clock.

He said he would personally visit those centres to check their performance.

He ordered the authorities to launch a massive awareness campaign through media to publicise about heatstroke centres, relevant contact numbers, health advisory facilities etc.

Hottest part of the day

The mayor requested citizens to avoid going out during acute hot weather from 11am to 4pm and strictly follow the health advisory.

Dr Amber Mir, an assistant commissioner, said the Rescue 1299 service was functional at the Karachi commissioner office and it was in constant touch with the Met office.

She spoke about a three-tier plan according to which heatstroke camps or first-response centres equipped with doctors, paramedics and medicines were being established. Besides, major hospitals — both in the public and private sectors — had been tasked to take care of tertiary treatment.

Officials in the city administration said that the provincial disaster management authority (PDMA), Sindh was leading the plans to save people from possible extreme weather events in a coordinated manner.

Critics, however, blamed the government for not staying committed to past plans and promises after the country’s worst heatwave in the city, which killed around 1,500 people in 2015.

Among the past plans, the provincial and city authorities are lagging behind their strategy which involved adequate water supply to the water-deficient areas, widespread tree plantation and uninterrupted power supply, which had never been possible for years, particularly during long summer days.

Officials said the PDMA had realised that disasters and climate change were becoming an increasing threat to Pakistan and Sindh in particular. “There is a dire need to evolve a comprehensive plan to avert the negative impacts of disasters,” said an official.

While the city officials claimed that they had completed their contingency plans, the promised first-response centres were not seen in the city on Monday.

They claimed such facilities would be tangible in the city in a day as the weather advisory came to them “late”. The Met office had been asked to issue a warning for a possible heatwave three days in advance, they added.

They said market associations, philanthropists and private organisations were being taken in the loop for establishing such shades.

The commissioner had already asked K-Electric to ensure minimum load-shedding during the sizzling days.

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2017