Ma­jor heat wave in Karachi kills over 430 peo­ple


A scorch­ing heat wave across south­ern Pak­istan’s city of Karachi has killed at least 436 peo­ple, author­i­ties said Tues­day, as morgues over­flowed with the dead and over­whelmed hos­pi­tals strug­gled to aid those cling­ing to life.

Tem­per­a­tures reach­ing 45 de­grees Cel­sius (113 de­grees Fahren­heit) be­gan roast­ing Pak­istan’s port city of Karachi over the week­end. Hours-long power out­ages, typ­i­cal in Pak­istan, also struck the city, leav­ing fans and air con­di­tion­ers in­op­er­a­ble as the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in this Mus­lim coun­try ab­stain from food or wa­ter in day­light hours dur­ing the holy fast­ing month of Ramadan.

The power out­ages also af­fected the spo­radic wa­ter sup­ply in the city, where those who can af­ford it rely on tankers of wa­ter be­ing de­liv­ered to their homes.

Most of the dead are the el­derly, said Seemi Ja­mali, a spokes­woman for Karachi’s Jin­nah Hos­pi­tal. Thou­sands more are be­ing treated for heat-re­lated ail­ments, in­clud­ing fever and de­hy­dra­tion and stom­ach-re­lated ill­nesses, she said. Mor­tu­ar­ies were run­ning out of space, with lo­cal tele­vi­sion sta­tions show­ing bod­ies stacked in­side of cold stor­age rooms of morgues.

Many ar­rive at the hos­pi­tal al­ready un­con­scious or star­ing out blankly. Some fainted in hos­pi­tal door­ways, while pa­tients lay on public benches and crowded cor­ri­dors in wheel­chairs and stretch­ers. Pan­icked fam­i­lies fought with hos­pi­tal staff to ad­mit their loved ones.

“We’re dy­ing and we’re be­ing told to wait,” said Moaz­zam Ali, as two women com­forted his badly de­hy­drated mother, who was wait­ing for med­i­cal care.

At least 436 peo­ple have been killed in the heat wave, said Za­far Ejaz, Karachi’s di­rec­tor of health.

Pro­vin­cial Chief Min­is­ter Qaim Ali Shah or­dered schools and public of­fices closed Tues­day un­til the heat wave ends. He blamed Pak­istani fed­eral gov­ern­ment for the deaths, say­ing they didn’t re­spond to his ap­peals to fix the power grid. Abid Sher Ali, a ju­nior min­is­ter for wa­ter and power for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, in turn blamed Karachi’s gov­ern­ment for the deaths, say­ing they couldn’t man­age their own af­fairs.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Ab­dur Rauf called the heat wave the worst in at least a decade to strike Pak­istan. He said ex­pected mon­soon rains in the com­ing days likely will bring re­lief to the area.

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