KARACHI: No less than 300 people have succumbed to a devastating wave of unusually hot weather that has been grilling Pakistan’s most populous urban center for more than a week now.
It took like hundreds of deaths for the sleeping administration of the metropolis of 20 million to come out of its ‘air-conditioned’ slumber and put the hospitals on alert to treat victims of heatstroke as an emergency.
“If possible, the citizens are advised not to leave homes for as long it’s hot out there,” said an expert adding, “Taking precautions is a must as it could mean the difference between life and death in the prevailing weather conditions.”
The Meteorological Office says it doesn’t see the parching temperatures falling anytime soon.
“We are afraid that by this time we don’t have a forecast of an immediate breather from the torrid high summer ruling the region supreme right now,” a meteorologist said, adding,” However the conditions will improve down the line.”
The prevailing heatwave in Karachi and other districts of southern Sindh province has killed at least 300 people, health and rescue officials said. The deaths occurred from Saturday to Monday.
Provincial health secretary Saeed Mangnejo told AFP that Sindh government had imposed a state of emergency at all hospitals, cancelling leave for doctors and other medical staff and increasing stocks of medical supplies.
Karachi saw temperatures reach as high as 45 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday, just short of an all-time high in the city of 47 C in June 1979.
Dr Seemin Jamali, the head of the emergency department at state-run Jinnah Hospital said more than 100 people had died at the hospital.
“They all died of heat stroke,” she said.
“So many people are dying because the heat wave is continuing for a longer period than it normally does, and also record temperatures have been recorded in a number of places,” an expert told AFP.
“It (the heatwave) has been continuing for a longer period, for about 7 to 8 days now, whereas usually it only lasts for a few days.”
Experts say the official figures likely understate the true impact because heatstroke disproportionately affects the poor and homeless, who are less likely to die in hospitals.
It should also not be forgotten that Ramazan, the holy Islamic month of fasting, coincided with the heatwave.
Hundreds of people, mostly from the lower-income segments of society, die at the peak of summer every year across the country, while tens of thousands suffer power outages from an overburdened as well as failing electricity grid.