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Pakistan Heat Wave Kills 1,000, Sparks Anger

  • Zlatica Hoke

Extreme heat in southern Pakistan has killed more than 1,000 people and the death toll is growing. On Saturday, as the temperature reached 45 degrees Celsius in Karachi, many Pakistanis blamed the government and utility companies for what they've called a woefully inadequate response.

"More than 1,000 people have died in this city due to heat, scarcity of water, power outages," said Abdullah Hussain Haroon, a social activist and former ambassador to the United Nations. "It is astonishing. Everyone from the federal government to Karachi Electric, they all are shameless."

City hospitals are overflowing with patients suffering from heatstroke, and the Pakistan army has set up makeshift relief camps. An army spokesman, Mohmmad Siraaj, said the hospital has admitted 5,000 heat stroke patients in the last three days.

Karachi, Pakistan

Karachi, Pakistan

​The government also has set up heatstroke prevention centers in Karachi and other regions of Sindh province.

"Definitely, we have 173 roadside heatstroke care units established by health department in rural areas," said Nazar Mohammad Buzdar of the Sindh Disaster Management Authority. "... We have 61 roadside camps of health department in Karachi."

Mohammad Riaz, a recovered patient, described his recent ordeal. "I was at home Thursday when the heat struck me," he said. "My body parts crumbled and I fell unconscious. I was taken to hospital and they said it was heat stroke. Now I am recovered and going home."

Many others have been less fortunate. Funerals were underway Friday in Karachi, a city running out of burial space and personnel.

"There is no formal grave digger here because there is no space left," said laborer Khadim Hussain. "However, we have a small place here. The people who come here (to bury their dead) buy the cement blocks for the graves. We charge for the labor."

Temperatures are beginning to drop, and monsoon rains expected in mid-July should bring much-needed relief.

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