Heat wave in Pak­istan kills nearly 700, most el­derly

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Aoun Sahi Sahi is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent. Times staff writer Shashank Ben­gali in Mum­bai, In­dia, con­trib­uted to this re­port.

KARACHI, Pak­istan — Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif de­clared an emer­gency Tues­day af­ter a three- day heat wave left nearly 700 peo­ple dead in the south­ern port of Karachi, the coun­try’s largest city.

Health of­fi­cials in Sindh province said that 218 peo­ple died of heat­stroke Tues­day, most of them el­derly.

Tem­per­a­tures have hov­ered near 110 de­grees in the day­time af­ter reach­ing a 10year high of 113 de­grees Satur­day. Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal of­fi­cials said the lack of a sea breeze raised hu­mid­ity and re­sulted in a heat in­dex of 120 de­grees.

Of­fi­cials said they ex­pected rain and slightly cooler tem­per­a­tures in the com­ing days.

“Hope­fully, to­day will be the last day of ex­treme heat in Karachi,” said Muham­mad Hanif, a se­nior of­fi­cial with the gov­ern­ment me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal ser­vice. “Mon­soon winds are ex­pected to en­ter the south­ern parts of Sindh in the next 24 hours.”

The ex­treme heat came as Pak­ista­nis were ob­serv­ing Ramadan, the holi­est month of the Is­lamic cal­en­dar, dur­ing which Mus­lims fast from dawn un­til dusk, although ex­cep­tions are al­lowed when a per­son’s health is threat­ened. A spokesman for the non­profit Edhi Foun­da­tion, An­war Kazmi, said he be­lieved the Ramadan fast was con­tribut­ing to the death toll.

The chief min­is­ter of Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah, said that schools, col­leges and gov­ern­ment of­fices would re­main closed across the province but hos­pi­tals would stay open.

Morgues in the city were overf low­ing, with two fa­cil­i­ties be­long­ing to the Edhi Foun­da­tion hav­ing re­ceived about 500 bod­ies in three days, Kazmi said.

Karachi res­i­dents said the city’s crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture made it dif­fi­cult to get re­lief from the tem­per­a­tures, even af­ter dusk. Many of the deaths were re­ported in the poor­est pock­ets of the city.

“The heat wave cou­pled with long hours of power cuts and a crip­pled wa­ter sup­ply sys­tem re­sulted in most of the deaths,” said Im­dad Soomro, a se­nior jour­nal­ist in Karachi.

“The gov­ern­ment has failed to pro­vide ba­sic util­i­ties to the peo­ple of the city,” Soomro said.

A heat wave in neigh­bor­ing In­dia left nearly 1,700 peo­ple dead last month.

Rizwan Tabas­sum AFP/ Getty I mages

I N KARACHI, a Pak­istani vol­un­teer looks through iden­tif ica­tion pa­pers to be at­tached to bod­ies in the cold stor­age of the morgue of the Edhi Foun­da­tion on Mon­day. Tem­per­a­tures have hov­ered around 110 de­grees.

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