Despite a noticeable decline in temperature, panic prevailed in the teeming port city as overcrowded hospitals continued to receive scores of people from different neighbourhoods of the city for the fifth consecutive day.
Government officials claim that of the six districts of Karachi, central and west districts have been the worst-hit by the sweltering heatwave.
“Over 800 deaths have been reported in Karachi alone,” said the director-general of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority of Sindh.
Thousands of patients have been treated at different hospitals across the metropolis, but the major inflow was recorded at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), where more than 8,000 patients have been nursed since Saturday.
“A total of 38 deaths have been reported from other parts of the province,” said Sindh Health Secretary Saeed Ahmed Mangnejo. He added that around 3,000 water tanks were being supplied to the most-affected areas of the city free of charge.
Despite the fact that the heatwave has caused a disaster-like situation in Karachi, not a single institution has managed to set up a desk to collect and disseminate relevant information. Lack of coordination is apparent everywhere.
“The Sindh government should declare Karachi a calamity-hit city,” said Maj Gen Asghar Nawaz, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Flanked by provincial officials at the JPMC, Maj Gen Nawaz told the media that NDMA’s responsibility is to coordinate with provincial institutions to assist them. He suggested the Sindh government set up heatstroke centres at schools and colleges.
The NDMA chairman told the provincial departments and the residents of Karachi and other parts of Sindh to keep themselves abreast of the impact of climate change in the region. “Cyclones and heatwaves might continue to hit this part of the country.”
As power outages continued in many parts of Karachi on Wednesday, the provincial government and medical experts said the death toll could slow down if the citizens are provided with uninterrupted electricity.
Sixty-one patients were reported dead by the JPMC on Wednesday, 48 by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC)-run hospitals (including the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital), 26 by the Ziauddin Hospital (North Nazimabad, Keamari and Clifton), 24 by the Memon Medical Institute Hospital, 11 by the Civil Hospital Karachi, 10 by the Sindh Government Hospital New Karachi and nine by the Liaquat National Hospital.
Around 100 heatstroke centres have been set up across Karachi by different organisations, 42 of which have been established by the KMC.
DESIGN: AAMIR KHAN
Approximately, 30,000 people have been affected by the heatwave, of which more than 12,000 were treated at KMC-run hospitals and over 8,000 at the JPMC.
A fresh heatwave is likely to hit Karachi next week, with the maximum temperature expected to reach 42 to 43°C.
Touseef Alam, former chief meteorologist of the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) in Karachi, told The Express Tribune that the intensity of the fresh heatwave could be similar to the prevailing one. “Relief efforts should continue with the same pace even if the city receives rain.”
PMD meteorologist Rashid Bilal said wind reversal had started from sea to land in Karachi, which would help maintain the mercury level in the city for a few days.
DESIGN: AAMIR KHAN
Bilal said the first spell of the pre-monsoon rain would not last after Thursday afternoon, following which hot, dry and humid weather is expected across the country. “The second spell, however, is expected to start next week in the northern parts.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2015.