Death toll from deadly heatwave in Karachi surpasses 800

Published: June 24, 2015
A man cools off under a public tap in Karachi. PHOTO: REUTERS

A man cools off under a public tap in Karachi. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: A deadly heatwave that has killed more than 800 people in Karachi showed signs of easing on Wednesday, bringing some respite to the sweltering city.

Temperatures in the city were forecast to peak at 38 degrees Celsius down from the 40-plus highs of recent days. The government declared a holiday in the city to encourage people to stay home and cool off.

The heat wave has coincided with severe electricity cuts and the holy month of Ramazan, when most Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours.

Many of the deaths, among the elderly and poor in Karachi, were caused by dehydration.

Read: Death toll from deadly heatwave crosses 700

“The heat wave death toll has reached close to the 800 mark in the last four days,” Anwar Kazmi, a senior official of the private charity, the Edhi Foundation, told Reuters.

“We are planning to expand the Edhi morgue to cope with a situation like this in future.”

The charity runs a network of ambulances, clinics and morgues to bridge the gaps in an overburdened and poorly funded by public health system in the city of 20 million people, home to Pakistan’s main stock market, central bank and biggest port.

Read: PM orders emergency measures as death toll exceeds 425

Government health officials did not return calls seeking comment.

A sea breeze slightly cooled parts of the city on Wednesday but rains predicted by weather officials did not arrive. Winds have shifted to the southwest, blowing cooler air into the port city from the Arabian Sea, and the Met Office has predicted rain, which would bring lower temperatures.

The government has demanded urgent action to deal with the crisis, and the administration in Sindh province declared Wednesday a public holiday to encourage people to stay indoors out of the sun.

Some residents on Tuesday took to hosing each other down with water to avoid collapsing from heat stroke.

A state of emergency is in force in hospitals which are struggling to cope with the 3,000 people affected by heatstroke and dehydration.

The change in weather will come as welcome relief for the economic hub, where maximum temperatures have hovered around 44 to 45 degrees C since Saturday.

The National Disaster Management Authority has been setting up dedicated heatstroke treatment centres to try to cope with the volume of patients.

Blasting summer heat is not unusual in Pakistan, and some parts of the country regularly experience higher temperatures than those seen in Karachi this week, without serious loss of life.

Many residents are furious with the civilian government over the electricity cuts and the poor state of the public hospitals  treating many of those who have fainted from the heat.

Read: Govt mulls use of cloud seeding technology for artificial rains in Karachi

Public services in Pakistan are starved of resources because almost all its wealthy evade taxes. Fewer than 0.5 per cent of citizens pay income tax; many legislators are among the tax dodgers.

The army has set up 22 health centres where it also hands out water and rehydration salts.

Grave statistics

The government is yet to collect and collate the exact death toll in four days, but the management of different hospitals around the city have reported the following figures: 260 people were either brought dead to or died during treatment at the JPMC, 112 at Karachi Metropolitan Corporation-run hospitals (including the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital), 93 at the Civil Hospital Karachi, 62 at the Liaquat National Hospital, 40 at the Indus Hospital, 37 at the Ziauddin Hospital (Clifton, North Nazimabad and Keamari), 32 at the Sindh Government Qatar Hospital Orangi, 20 each at the Aga Khan University Hospital and the Lyari General Hospital, 15 at the Sindh Government Hospital New Karachi, six at the Sindh Government Hospital Liaquatabad, three at the Sindh Government Hospital Malir and two at the Sindh Government Hospital Korangi.

Read: Fatal heatwave: Karachi running out of space for the dead

Meanwhile, a total of 18 sunstroke-related deaths have been reported from six Hyderabad districts. Most of the victims were the elderly. Six people ranging between the ages of 55 and 70 years were reported dead in the last 24 hours alone.

Five deaths have been reported from Tando Allahyar, while two minors were among three people who fell victim to the heatwave in Thatta. Two people have been reported dead in Badin, while one death each was reported from Jamshoro and Sujawal.

The heatwave has also claimed three lives in different parts of upper Sindh, where a large number of people, especially the elderly and children, have been afflicted with gastroenteritis.

A labourer died near Sukkur on Sunday, while a schoolteacher near Sukkur and another person near Dadu were reported dead on Tuesday.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Talha
    Jun 24, 2015 - 12:18PM

    and we were mocking Indians about the Delhi heatwave about governance……

    Look around guys….nobody in this doomed country is taking responsibility of the innocent people dying….the morgues are full, no place to bury even the people at the Cemetery are asking for insane money….common man beating another common man in the name of protest as if that poor guy is responsible for load shedding or is the CEO of KE. We as commoners should stop and reflect back on every single action and decision we have made in the interest of this country. We all will fail miserably to find any instance whatsoever (if being truthful). Democracy is for the people and by the people not for the politicians by the politicians!

    I wish these so called “elected members of the parliament” spend just one day (24 hours) as a commoner, just live their lives. Travel “ON” public buses, yes I mean literally ON not IN. Feel the pain of low income household management, i.e Utilities, food, house rent, education, transportation and healthcare. I bet they can survive even 6 hours of this life. My question remains, “how in the world, these ignorant people, will feel the pain, i go through everyday?”

    A common man can only understand the pain because he is going through the same miserable life cycle. But another million dollar question remains, ” How can a commoner be in power?” I wish I had the answer to this question which I desperately seek.

    Prayers for all the innocent people perished not only by heat but by mismanagement. Recommend

  • raw is war
    Jun 24, 2015 - 1:45PM

    weather report shows Karachi temperature as 36 deg celsius. So how come there is a heat wave? Are the reports false? Anybody can explain?Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jun 24, 2015 - 3:50PM

    The Prime Minister of Pakistan is allowed the death of ten thousand citizens including those killed by the police, army and judiciary before he is forced to step down! Is any one keeping the statistics?

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • Brar
    Jun 24, 2015 - 3:55PM

    @Talha: If you think politicians are honest on this side of the border than you are wrong, they are never worried about the common man but only shout slogans as Gareebi Hatao where as actually they want to get rid of poor people, they enjoy every facility how can they feel the misries of the poor people as they are not from the poor, for them the poor people are not more thana vote and it is our bad luck . We will have to unite and compell to do some thing for poor instead of only promises. Sorry for the loss of so many poor people of Karachi.Recommend

  • bigsaf
    Jun 24, 2015 - 4:21PM

    Apart from government failure and lack of resources, no one seems to consider or be aware of climate change to which parts of Pakistan is most rapidly vulnerable to, with extremes such as drought to flooding to this heat wave. That needs to be raised and tackled too.Recommend

  • Umair
    Jun 25, 2015 - 12:06AM

    @Talha and @Brar

    Here Paki and indian guys are agreed on this issue! This is nice!

    It means that common men and women are suffering everywhere and we are united on this point! Nice guysRecommend

  • Anwar Hasan
    Jun 25, 2015 - 3:49AM

    Most of the people who died were fasting and did not break their fast till it was too late.
    This is becuse:
    1) No children died and children die due to dehydration very fast.
    2) 45 C is quite common in Sibi, Larkana and Rahim Yar Khan but this kind of death does not happen there
    3) If it was NOT Ramazan very few people would have died.Recommend

  • Rich Persoff
    Oct 20, 2015 - 11:30PM

    I am sad for the poor people who died, and for everyone in the heat this summer. But as an outsider I ask, “Why does Pakistan need a large military WHICH USES SO MUCH OF ITS NATIONAL INCOME? Does anyone really think that India, with its own problems of feeding its population, wishes to take Pakistani territory, even beautiful Kashmir? Couldn’t that money be used to take better care of Pakistan’s own people?”Recommend

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