Pakistan: Extreme heat wave kills more than 1000

Protest by Awami Workers Party-Sindh against exacerbation of heatwave by corruption and electricity privatisation. Hyderabad, Sindh, June 28. Photo: Awami Workers Party-Sindh/ Facebook.

The death toll in Pakistan's devastating heat wave shot past 1000 on June 25. This makes it the worst heat wave to hit the country's southern city of Karachi in at least 35 years.

Some limited rain brought slight cooling, lowering temperatures in the economic hub of Karachi and surrounding areas from as high as 44°C to heat in the high 30s on June 25.

Monsoon season, already underway in neighbouring India, is expected to soon bring relief.

Some officials are pointing to the serious need to deal with the impacts of climate change, to which Pakistan is considered among the world's most vulnerable countries.

Minister of Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan told Pakistan's Dawn News: “The rich countries have benefited from industrial development but all at the cost of environment that poor vulnerable countries like Pakistan are now paying.

“It is imperative that the rich countries spend some of that money to conserve environment and help Pakistan adapt to the altering climate, which it cannot achieve on its own for lack of resources.”

Heat wave victims — suffering dehydration, heat stroke and exhaustion, and other illnesses resulting from extreme heat and humidity — have disproportionately been elderly and poor people who are most vulnerable in the difficult conditions.

Some Karachi hospitals reached capacity and morgues have been unable to keep pace with the number of fatalities. Doctors have said the number of patients is slowly declining with the temperatures.

Water shortages, widespread power outages, and fasting during daylight hours by Ramadan observers in the majority-Muslim country have worsened the impacts of intense weather.

Amid the scorching heat, a high ranking Islamic cleric issued a fatwa giving permission to Muslims to breakfast and eat and drink during the day to help deal with the intense weather that is putting lives in danger.

The deadly heat wave has brought attention to the impacts of climate change, which is expected to worsen the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves in the region. It has also highlighted the crumbling state of public services in the country that failed to keep pace with healthcare demands amid the heat crisis.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared the heat wave a state of emergency. The death toll in Pakistan is now about half of the total deaths of the recent heat wave in neighbouring India that claimed over 2200 deaths in May.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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