SEHWAN: Four elderly devotees of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar died from heatstroke as the mercury shot to 50 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

Thousands of devotees have converged on the tiny town to participate in the 766th annual Urs celebrations of the Sufi saint, which commenced officially on Saturday and would continue till May 7.

Bodies of the heatstroke victims, only one of whom was identified, were found in different parts of the town. The bodies of two men, aged between 60 and 50 and a 40-year-old woman were kept at Edhi centre. Only one victim was identified as Mohammad Ashraf, a resident of Faisalabad.

Edhi centre in-charge Ghulam Sarwar Shaikh said that after the victims had fallen unconscious due to heatstroke they were rushed to Syed Abdullah Shah Institute of Medical Sciences where the doctors declared them dead.

Wasim Ahmed, a healthcare official, at the institute said that at present 12 devotees were undergoing treatment for heatstroke. They too had fallen unconscious in different parts of the town, he said.

Power woes afflict devotees

Qalandar devotees were facing 10 to 11 hours’ loadshedding in Sehwan even during Urs celebrations which had exacerbated conditions with mercury on a steady rise by each passing day. The temperature was recorded at 50 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

Hussain Rajput, a resident of Multan, complained that he had paid Rs5,000 bribe to Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) officials for providing power connection to his tent in the western part of the town.

He said that 10-hour loadshedding in the scorching heat made it difficult to live in the tent.

Shaman Arain of Bahawalpur complained that his four friends out of 10 had so far fainted due to extreme heat. Despite paying huge amount as bribe to Hesco staff they were facing unbearable loadshedding, he said.

Sehwan municipal committee chairman Syed Asif Ali Shah complained that water pumping machines did not run due to long hours of loadshedding and low voltage, hence supply of water was affected and they were unable to meet the town’s increased requirement during Urs.

Special assistant to Sindh chief minister for Auqaf, Syed Ghulam Shah Jilani, said that loadshedding was multiplying problems of devotees.

Riaz Ahmed Pathan, executive engineer of Hesco who was overseeing power supply situation in Sehwan, rejected what he termed allegations by devotees against Hesco teams and loadshedding and said that there was zero loadshedding in Sehwan for six days.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2018