Heat wave sub­sides in Pak­istan as death toll hits 860

The China Post - - LIFE - BY ADIL JAWAD

The dev­as­tat­ing heat wave that struck south­ern Pak­istan last week­end is slowly sub­sid­ing but the toll was still climb­ing Thurs­day, to a to­tal of 860 con­firmed deaths, a se­nior health of­fi­cial said.

Pak­istan’s dead­li­est heat wave on record comes just weeks af­ter soar­ing tem­per­a­tures caused nearly 2,200 deaths in neigh­bor­ing In­dia, rais­ing fears that South Asia could be see­ing some of the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of hu­man-caused cli­mate change.

The cri­sis cen­tered in the south­ern port city of Karachi was wors­ened by poor lo­cal ser­vices, in­clud­ing a faulty power grid and short­ages of potable wa­ter. And the heat wave struck as the city’s Mus­lim ma­jor­ity was ob­serv­ing the dawn-to-dusk fast­ing month of Ramadan.

Jam Me­htab Hus­sain, the pro­vin­cial health min­is­ter in the south­ern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the cap­i­tal, said that de­spite lower tem­per­a­tures peo­ple were still be­ing ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tals with heat-re­lated ail­ments — though in smaller num­bers than in pre­vi­ous days.

Ah­mad Ka­mal, a spokesman for the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity, said author­i­ties were pro­vid­ing free med­i­cal treat­ment to peo­ple in Karachi. He said the sit­u­a­tion was im­prov­ing due to lower tem­per­a­tures.

On Thurs­day, the tem­per­a­ture dropped to 34 de­grees Cel­sius (93.2 de­grees Fahren­heit) in Karachi from a high of 45 de­grees Cel­sius (113 de­grees Fahren­heit) on Sun­day.

TV footage showed am­bu­lances trans­port­ing heat­stroke pa­tients to hos­pi­tals, where peo­ple held small ral­lies against power out­ages, which had ex­ac­er­bated the ef­fects of the heat wave.

Ob­ser­vant Mus­lims, who make up the ma­jor­ity of Karachi’s 20 mil­lion res­i­dents, were mean­while ab­stain­ing from food and wa­ter dur­ing long sum­mer days. A sin­gle sip of wa­ter in­val­i­dates the fast, but Mus­lims are dis­cour­aged from fast­ing if they are sick or if do­ing so would cause phys­i­cal harm.

Al­lama Tahir Ashrafi, a Pak­istani cleric, called on sick and el­derly peo­ple to avoid fast­ing un­til the weather im­proves.

“Those peo­ple who can­not fast be­cause of health rea­sons should not fast these days. There is no need to risk your lives,” he said. Vol­un­teers were mean­while dis­tribut­ing clean drink­ing wa­ter and juice through­out the day.

TV footage showed women cry­ing over the bod­ies of loved ones who had died be­cause of the heat.

Syed Man­nan Ahmed said his fa­ther col­lapsed Tues­day while go­ing to buy gro­ceries from a nearby shop. He said his fam­ily rushed the 64-year-old to a hos­pi­tal but could not get treat­ment in time be­cause it was packed with vic­tims. Then they found that most of the mor­tu­ar­ies were full as well.

Another Karachi res­i­dent, Mo­ham­mad Ayaz, said hun­dreds of peo­ple were sleep­ing out­side be­cause of long power cuts. Wakil Ahmed said the weather had im­proved from pre­vi­ous days, when it was so hot it be­came dif­fi­cult to breathe. He said Thurs­day brought clouds and a slight breeze.

While cli­mate sci­en­tists can’t blame hu­man-caused global warm­ing for Pak­istan’s heat wave with­out a time-con­sum­ing study, sev­eral said it fits with what from cli­mate change.

“The deadly heat wave that has killed sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple in Karachi, Pak­istan is clearly a harbinger of things to come with the chang­ing cli­mate,” said Saleemul Huq, di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Cli­mate Change and De­vel­op­ment in Bangladesh and a prom­i­nent cli­mate sci­en­tist.

is ex­pected

“Even if this par­tic­u­lar event can­not be un­equiv­o­cally at­trib­uted to hu­man in­duced cli­mate change, we can cer­tainly ex­pect such heat waves with greater fre­quency in fu­ture.”

Nu­mer­ous stud­ies over the past three years show that the num­ber of pro­longed heat waves has soared, and sci­en­tists have cal­cu­lated that about three quar­ters of record heat is due to hu­man-caused cli­mate change.

“I would es­ti­mate that the like­li­hood for such a heat wave in Pak­istan would have in­creased sev­er­al­fold due to global warm­ing,” said cli­mate sci­en­tist Ste­fan Rahm­storf at the Pots­dam In­sti­tute for Cli­mate Re­search in Ger­many. “More likely than not, it would not have hap­pened with­out global warm­ing.”


(Above) A Pak­istani child who is suf­fer­ing from de­hy­dra­tion due to ex­treme weather is seen af­ter be­ing ad­mit­ted at a lo­cal hos­pi­tal in Karachi, Pak­istan on Thurs­day, June 25. (Left) A man pours wa­ter on a girl to cool off out­side a lo­cal hos­pi­tal in Karachi, Pak­istan on Thurs­day.

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