Karachi, Pakistan (population 20 million) has been experiencing a state of emergency as residents try to struggle through a three day heat wave.
Over the last few days the temperature has gone as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celcius). Ice is being sold at extremely high prices due to the limited supply and those who are outdoor street vendors and manual laborers are feeling the effects. The Pakistan Rangers are a paramilitary force who have set up emergency treatment centers in the streets in hopes of helping people on site.
The chaos and influx of those in need has overwhelmed hospitals. Doctors say many people are arriving at the hospital suffering from severe dehydration. Semi Jamali is a doctor at the biggest hospital in Karachi. He has reported that the hospital has seen about three thousand patients come through their doors and that over “200 of them were either received dead or died in hospital”.
As of right now the official death count is over 650 people. Senior provincial health official, Sabir Memon reports:
“The number of people who have died due to the heatwave in government hospitals is now more than 500. The death toll may go up.”
Worsening the effect of the heat has been electric shortages but also the annual Ramadan fast. The primarily Muslim country has many individuals who are suffering strokes and dehydration because they are in the heat and fasting during the day. Ramadan fasting is when Muslims avoid food and water during daylight hours. Prominent Islamic cleric, Tahir Ashrafi, pleads for people who are suffering to abstain from fasting. He states:
“We (religious scholars) have highlighted on various television channels that those who are at risk, especially in Karachi where there is a very serious situation, should abstain from fasting. Islam has drawn conditions for fasting, it is even mentioned in the holy Koran that patients and travelers who are not able to bear fasting can delay it and people who are weak or old and are at risk of falling sick or even dying because of fasting should abstain.”
The Edhi Foundation is a charity that runs Karachi’s primary morgue. Unfortunately, they are not prepared for this kind of emergency. Spokesman Anwar Kazmi reports:
“More than 400 dead bodies have so far been received in our two mortuaries in the past three days. The mortuaries have reached capacity.”
The hot spell is expected to continue through the week, according to meteorologists, although there’s a possibility for some rain and thunderstorms in Karachi which may provide a bit of relief.
Friday has been declared a day of mourning and the provincial government has proclaimed a public holiday to drive people inside. Karachi’s chief minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, has announced that schools, colleges and government offices are closed until otherwise stated.
Some people are blaming the provincial government and others are pointing fingers at the federal government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Stay cool everyone and sympathies to those who have lost loved ones.