KARACHI: Karachi is not used to so much heat. It was always known for its pleasant evenings. And even if the mercury rose past the tipping point during the day, the cool nights would balance out the temperature.
The past week broke all records of Karachi's experience with heat. Over 1,000 people have died due to the extreme temperature; thousands more are being treated at hospitals, which are swamped for space, with patients and their attendants covering every space they can find.
Read: Heatwave horror: Army sets up 16 relief camps in Sindh
The Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH) - one of the city's largest public hospitals - that largely caters to the dense population of districts Central and West wore a particularly disheveled look on Thursday morning. With stretchers and beds short in supply, several patients lay on the floor, some supported by their attendants while others looking lost as they waited for the medical staff to attend to them. The attendants who stood by their patients were lucky enough to be inside the air-conditioned emergency ward. A large majority stood outside in the sun, waiting for news of their loved ones.
According to the hospital's officials, around 450 heatstroke patients were under treatment at the facility on Thursday morning. "The patients admitted here are not only suffering from the most apparent heatstroke symptoms," explained a health officer. "They are also suffering from dehydration and gastro-related problems."
Dr Asif Abbasi, an ENT specialist at the ASH said he had never seen such a large number of patients at the hospital. He added that the death toll had increased because the people affected by the heatwave couldn't get respite due to power cuts and shortage of water. "People could have borne this heat had the K-Electric ensured the provision of uninterrupted electricity and the supply of water had been ensured by the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board."
Read: Shifting the blame: K-Electric is exploiting the situation, says CM
Abdul Manan, 26, who was admitted to the facility on Sunday, said he was going back home from work when his condition worsened. He had been sitting on the roof of a public bus when he started feeling nauseous. Then he found himself lying in the hospital. Manan claims to have seen 16 people die in front of him since the day he was admitted to the facility.
One of the biggest sources of resentment for the patients as well as their attendants is that the bodies are being kept in the same hall where the patients are being treated. The area between the living and the dead is separated simply by a small piece of cloth.
Although the hospital officials claimed the bodies were only kept an hour earlier, the patients rebutted that the bodies were being stored there since the start of the tragedy.
Read: Fatal heatwave: Karachi running out of space for the dead
Another patient, Haris Akram, complained that due to the bodies being kept with the patients, the latter were getting sicker. "The government couldn't give us the facilities to live comfortably. It is my humble request to please give us a place where we may bury our dead," he requested. Akram said only those with resources were able to secure graves for their loved ones. "People are using their influence to get a place to bury their loved ones. Has the government no shame?"
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2015.