Death toll from deadly heatwave in Karachi surpasses 800

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KARACHI: A deadly heatwave that has killed more than 800 people in Karachi showed signs of easing on Wednesday, bringing some respite to the sweltering city.

Temperatures in the city were forecast to peak at 38 degrees Celsius down from the 40-plus highs of recent days. The government declared a holiday in the city to encourage people to stay home and cool off.

The heat wave has coincided with severe electricity cuts and the holy month of Ramazan, when most Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours.

Many of the deaths, among the elderly and poor in Karachi, were caused by dehydration.

 “The heat wave death toll has reached close to the 800 mark in the last four days,” Anwar Kazmi, a senior official of the private charity, the Edhi Foundation, told Reuters.

“We are planning to expand the Edhi morgue to cope with a situation like this in future.”

The charity runs a network of ambulances, clinics and morgues to bridge the gaps in an overburdened and poorly funded by public health system in the city of 20 million people, home to Pakistan’s main stock market, central bank and biggest port.

Government health officials did not return calls seeking comment.

A sea breeze slightly cooled parts of the city on Wednesday but rains predicted by weather officials did not arrive. Winds have shifted to the southwest, blowing cooler air into the port city from the Arabian Sea, and the Met Office has predicted rain, which would bring lower temperatures.

The government has demanded urgent action to deal with the crisis, and the administration in Sindh province declared Wednesday a public holiday to encourage people to stay indoors out of the sun.

Some residents on Tuesday took to hosing each other down with water to avoid collapsing from heat stroke.

A state of emergency is in force in hospitals which are struggling to cope with the 3,000 people affected by heatstroke and dehydration.

The change in weather will come as welcome relief for the economic hub, where maximum temperatures have hovered around 44 to 45 degrees C since Saturday.

The National Disaster Management Authority has been setting up dedicated heatstroke treatment centres to try to cope with the volume of patients.

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