• Dadu sizzles at 48°C as temperature crosses 45°C in many districts
• CS orders establishment of heatwave prevention centres in all Sindh hospitals
• Cases of high-grade fever, body aches, eye infections rise in Karachi

 As the mercury surged to 39.5°C in the metropolis, people preferred to stay indoors and traffic remained thin on otherwise busy arteries on Friday. (Right) A volunteer pours a drink at a relief camp set up by a political party in the Gulberg area.—Online / PPI
As the mercury surged to 39.5°C in the metropolis, people preferred to stay indoors and traffic remained thin on otherwise busy arteries on Friday. (Right) A volunteer pours a drink at a relief camp set up by a political party in the Gulberg area.—Online / PPI

KARACHI: As temperature in many districts of Sindh crossed 45 degrees Celsius on Friday, the provincial government held a high-level meeting to assess the situation and make a strategy to tackle the heatwave predicted to sweep the province from May 21 onwards.

Health experts have called upon the authorities to ensure supply of clean water, gas and electricity to the people so that they could protect themselves from the heatwave.

Hot weather conditions currently prevail across the province and are expected to get more intense from May 21 till May 27.

While the maximum temperature recorded in Karachi on Friday was 39.5°C, mercury surged to over 45°C in 10 districts of Sindh.

The Met department on Friday recorded the maximum temperature in Dadu (48°C) followed by Jacobabad (47.5°C), Larkana and Khairpur (47°C), Shaheed Benazirabad, Sukkur and Rohri (46.5°C), Mithi, Chhor and Padidan (46°C), Sakrand (45.5°C), Hyderabad (44°C), Mirpurkhas (43°C), Badin (42.5°C) and Thatta (39.5°C).

Against this backdrop, Sindh Chief Secretary Syed Asif Hyder Shah presided over a meeting during which he was briefed about the preventive steps being taken by government departments to mitigate heatstroke risks.

The meeting was attended by secretaries of energy and rehabilitation departments, Karachi commissioner, director general of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority and other key officials.

Additionally, all divisional commissioners participated in the meeting via video link.

The chief secretary emphasised the importance of a proactive awareness campaign to educate the public on heatwave prevention and safety measures.

He ordered authorities to set up heatwave prevention centres in all hospitals across the province to provide immediate assistance and relief.

He issued directives to ensure availability of electricity and drinking water and to set up sheds in areas with high pedestrian traffic to offer shade and prevent heat strokes.

Rescue services had also been put on high alert. All deputy commissioners were instructed to establish heat stroke centres at public places to facilitate immediate medical assistance.

‘Intense weather already affecting people’

According to health experts, the intense weather has already affected people badly while a majority of them already struggling to survive amid unprecedented hikes in prices of food, essential commodities, gas and electricity.

“As we speak, half of the city is deprived of water. How could one talk of combating soaring heat in a situation where people are not getting water,” asked Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA).

On the other hand, he pointed out, what people were getting in the name of water was highly contaminated.

“There hasn’t been any let-up in diarrhoea cases, indicating that the problem of water contamination hasn’t been addressed. If people wouldn’t die of heat, poisonous water would kill them anyway. Do they have any choice?” he regretted, emphasising that the government could significantly reduce health costs and disease burden if it could only provide clean drinking water to the masses.

About the heat-related complaints, health experts said that a significant number of patients were coming with high-grade fever, acute body aches, low blood pressure and eye infections.

“While we can rule out a viral infection, these complaints could be linked to intense heat as well. People in general are deprived of clean drinking water and electricity and are forced to work in soaring weather,” Dr Shoro said.

Seconding his opinion, Dr Sajjad Siddiqui, another general physician, shared that a large number of his patients were reporting with diarrhea, vomiting and gastroenteritis.

“The illnesses are linked to the use of contaminated water. People don’t boil water for drinking purposes as they don’t have gas. There has also been a spike in skin infections including complaints of itching and pimples these days.”

Health experts underscored the need for creating public awareness on protection against heat stroke. People, they said, should avoid direct exposure to sunlight, especially between 12 noon and 4pm, cover their head and increase water intake.

There should be an official break for everyone working under the open sky in hot weather, they said, adding that fine should be imposed on those forcing the poor to work in weather-intense conditions.

“It’s also important that children, the elderly and the sick are looked after well, especially in hot weather as dehydration, if not properly managed in time, can cause death,” said Dr Altaf Hussain Khatri, a general physician based in the old city area, adding that the government must ensure provision of electricity round the clock to citizens.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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