A deadly heat wave spreading through southern Pakistan has killed nearly 800 people in just a few days—a number that threatens to rise as temperatures remain unusually high this week.
At least 740 people have died of dehydration, heat stroke, and other heat-related illnesses in Karachi, the country’s largest city, since Saturday, with various sources estimating the death toll to have hit anywhere from 744 to 775. Local media reports that an additional 38 people have died in other provinces.
As temperatures hit 45°C (113°F) on Tuesday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared a state of emergency for hospitals, many of which have hit full capacity, with thousands needing care for heat stroke and dehydration.
Al Jazeera writes:
“The mortuary is overflowing, they are piling bodies one on top of the other,” said Dr Seemin Jamali, a senior official at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), the city’s largest government hospital.
“We are doing everything that is humanly possible here,” she said, adding that since Saturday, the JPMC had seen more than 5,000 patients with heat-related symptoms. Of those, 384 patients had died, she said.
“Until [Tuesday] night, it was unbelievable. We were getting patients coming into the emergency ward every minute,” she said.
Among those who have died, most have been either elderly or poor, officials say.
A former director of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency, Asif Shuja, said earlier this week that the soaring temperatures are an impact of climate change, fueled by rapid urbanization, deforestation, and car use. “The last 30 years – from 1993-2012 – had been warmer than the last 1,400 years. Scientists envisage a rise of 1-6.67°C in temperature till 2100 which will be disastrous,” he told the Express Tribune.
But as the Daily Pakistan points out, a study conducted by the Lancet/UCL commission this week found that only 15 percent of Pakistani citizens believe climate change is a major threat, while 40 percent are unaware or deny its existence. That makes Pakistan the “least aware” country in the South Asian region of the threats of climate change. Commentator Juan Cole adds: