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65 people dead due to heat wave in Karachi, claims Pakistani welfare organisation

Reports of heat stroke deaths in Karachi could stir unease amid fears of a repeat of a heatwave in of 2015, when morgues and hospitals were overwhelmed and at least 1,300 died.

world Updated: May 22, 2018 16:03 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan,Heat wave,Pakistan heat wavem Karachi
A man cools off with a shower, setup at the premises of the Dr Ruth KM Pfau Civil Hospital, during a heatwave in Karachi, Pakistan on May 20, 2018. (REUTERS)

A heatwave has killed 65 people in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi over the past three days, a social welfare organisation said on Tuesday, but the local government insisted there have been only a couple of deaths.

Faisal Edhi, the head of Edhi Foundation who put the death toll at 65, said the number of bodies in the morgues of the respected NGO in Korangi area has tripled in some areas and doubled in others.

He told local media that more than 160 bodies have been reported at the two mortuaries, with the relatives of 60 claiming heatstroke to be the cause of death. “On normal days, the Korangi mortuary receives six or seven bodies, whereas the last few days have seen 20 to 25 bodies per day. The flow at the Sohrab Goth facility has doubled from 20 bodies to 40 in a single day,” he added. The ages of the deceased range from 16 years to 78 years and they include both men and women.

But Sindh health secretary Dr Fazlullah Pechuho rejected the reports, denying anyone died due to heatstroke in Karachi. Only doctors and hospitals can decide if a person died due to heatstroke or not, he said, adding, “hospitals in Karachi did not receive any heatstroke patient during last three days. I categorically reject rumours that people have died due to heatstroke in Karachi.”

Volunteers stand amid bodies, several of which are people who died due to an intense heatwave, according to Edhi Foundation, at Edhi morgue in Karachi, Pakistan on May 22, 2018. (Reuters)

Observers say the holy fasting month of Ramzan is part of the reasons why heatstroke cases are not classified as such. The heatwave also coincided with power outages in the city.

“People are reluctant to admit that many people died because they were fasting as it goes against their religious beliefs,” said local journalist Fawad Hasan.

In 2015, more than 2,000 people died when a heat wave swept Karachi during Ramzan. Authorities and local leaders at the time were reluctant to pinpoint the cause of the deaths as they felt it would upset religious sentiments.

During Ramzan, almost all restaurants are closed during daytime as people observe fasting.

Local laws punishes those found to be eating or drinking water in public.

Public taps and water dispensing areas set up by the government and by local philanthropists are also shut down for fear of attacks from religious extremists.

Karachi city’s temperature is expected to remain high in the next few days. The maximum temperature remained 44 degrees Celsius, with humidity at 6%.

First Published: May 22, 2018 14:30 IST