Majority of Karachi heatwave victims were homeless: minister

Provincial health minister says 60 to 65% of the heatstroke victims were beggars and heroin addicts, street people

Afp June 29, 2015
PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: Nearly two-thirds of the victims of a killer heatwave that swept lower Sindh last week were homeless people, a minister said on Monday, as the death toll in Karachi reached over 1,200.

The city of 20 million inhabitants is a sprawling metropolis with few green areas and has scant facilities for coping with intensely hot weather.

Those living on the city's streets have little access to shelter or safe drinking water, making them particularly vulnerable to the scorching temperatures.

"About 60 to 65% of the heatstroke victims were beggars and heroin addicts, street people," Jam Mehtab Dahar, the provincial health minister told AFP.

Read: Karachi heatwave death toll crosses 1,200: Health Department

Zafar Ejaz, a senior health official, said the death toll as of Monday stood at 1,229 across the city's hospitals.

After peaking at around 45 degrees Celsius on the weekend of June 20 and June 21, the heat subsided to the mid-30s later in the week as the city's customary cooling sea breeze returned.

Among the remaining 35 to 40% of deaths, elderly women who died in their homes comprised a majority, Dahar said, suggesting power cuts had played a role as people had been unable to use fans or air conditioners.

Read: No mercy: After morgues, city runs out of funeral vans

"The women were at homes and not directly exposed to heat unlike the street people," Dahar added.

This year's heatwave has also coincided with the start of the holy month of Ramazan, during which millions of devout Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

Under Pakistani law, it is illegal for Muslims to eat or drink in public during daylight hours in Ramadan, though the crisis prompted some clerics to advise people they should stop fasting if their health is at risk.

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COMMENTS (13)

Hassan | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend The majority of people killed during heatwave were homeless and drug addicts said a sindh minister if his claim is true then the minister should resign as he is responsible because he is enjoying each and every facility from the income of tax payers and poor people are dying on roads which clearly shows the incompetency of the sindh government whose senile CM announced to close the schools, colleges and govt offices at 01:pm what a revolutionary step he took. When sindh govt failed to handle the situation like recent heatwave, one fears God forbid in any disaster in the metropolitan what will happened to Karachiites
Adil | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend I was in Karachi last week to attend a funeral, and spoke to the kafan salesman at alamgir mosque. He told me, he alone has sold more then 1500 of then in the last week, and at the same mosque we have our uncle ghusal I saw the body of a 26 year old guy, brother to 5 sisters living in flats from Gulshan block 4 area. What I wish to say is: 1) numbering deaths is grossly understated 2) people of all age, gender, localities have died 3) govt is directly responsible as failed to provide basic medical, water and sanitation or even educate the masses on how to deal with such heat 4) these ruthless leaders would pay for shortcomings and greed in this life or the hereafter as each and every cry from a family is on them May Allah guide and bless us all.
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