Pakistan heat wave deaths top 1,400: officials worried

Published 28.06.2015 22:59
Updated 28.06.2015 23:10
Men sleep on the floor during a heat wave, at a mosque at the premises of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) in Karachi, Pakistan, June 28, 2015. (REUTERS Photo)
Men sleep on the floor during a heat wave, at a mosque at the premises of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) in Karachi, Pakistan, June 28, 2015. (REUTERS Photo)

The death toll in the Karachi heat wave in the coast of Pakistan has reached 1,400 people, according to the statements of Pakistani health officials on Sunday.

According to the director-general of Sindh's health department, Hasan Murad, almost 1,200 people have died of heatstroke and other related diseases in the coastal city of Karachi since June 20.

Provincial Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said earlier this week that over 200 people have also died in interior districts of Sindh which has been fighting the blistering heat for more than a week. An anonymous senior health official told Anadolu Agency that the actual death toll could be higher as hundreds of fatalities in remote districts have gone unreported.

"The figures reported by the media are from major hospitals" he said.

Most of the victims, according to hospital officials, were laborers from the far north and homeless people who could not cope with the intensity of the heat wave.

This was vindicated by the Edhi Foundation, a health NGO, which received over 200 unclaimed bodies in Karachi since June 20.
Faisal Edhi, the Edhi Foundation's operations chief, told reporters Saturday that 140 unclaimed bodies were buried in mass graves, while 60 were still lying at the NGO's mortuary awaiting identification.

Pakistani hospitals are facing difficulties in accommodating incoming heatstroke patients and have asked donors and volunteers to provide ice, water and even beds.
The temperature dipped slightly on Sunday to 42.5 celcius and the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) announced that it expects a decrease in current heat wave from Monday due to southwesterly winds.

However, environmentalists and weather experts have reacted with caution to claims by Pakistan's environment minister that newly built power plants in neighboring India were to blame for the extreme heat.
Mushaidullah Khan told a seminar in capital Islamabad earlier this week that the power plants in the nearby Indian state of Rajhistan were responsible for the ongoing heat wave.
"It is premature to say anything like that until unless scientific research is there to prove it," said Nasir Panhwar, a Karachi-based environmentalist, adding: "Politicians have their own way to assert and blame. But as an environmentalist, we cannot act like that."

Abdul Rasheed, a PMD spokesman, agrees. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, he said: "It is not appropriate to blame [Indian power plants] without having any cogent scientific reason. That's why it will be early to confirm that, in my opinion."

The federal government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accuses the Pakistan Peoples Party administration in Sindh of not taking adequate health measures to save the lives of hundreds of victims.

The heat wave has mostly affected Sindh, Southern Punjab, and Balochistan. With temperatures reaching 44.8 degrees Celsius (112.64 degrees Fahrenheit) this is the most brutal heat wave and highest-recorded temperature in Pakistan in the last 15 years.

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