Karachi heat wave: Unforgiving heat claims more lives

Updated 10:44 AM EDT, Thu June 25, 2015
01:31 - Source: CNN
Pakistan's cemeteries running out of room to bury the dead

Story highlights

The heat wave has killed over 1,000 people in Karachi and Sindh province

At least 650 bodies have been brought to Karachi's largest morgue since Saturday

One Karachi hospital has treated more than 7,000 people in the past four days

Karachi, Pakistan CNN —  

The unforgiving heat has spared no one. The very young, the very old and those in the prime of their lives.

Corpses covered in flies lie outside city morgues. Inside, bodies up on bodies are piled high.

Hospitals are overwhelmed, relying on volunteers and donors for ice, water and even spare beds.

By Thursday, the death toll from the oppressive heat wave in Sindh province topped 1,000, officials told CNN.

But even without the numbers, the full extent of the misery isn’t hard to gauge.

Overwhelmed hospital

At the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Center in Sindh’s capital, Karachi, heat stroke victims are wheeled in daily, swelling the numbers well beyond capacity.

The overwhelmed doctors and nurses do what they can.

But with supplies limited, the government-run hospital is relying on volunteers and donors for even the basic necessities, they say.

Family members tend to many of the patients, wiping their brows with sponges and keeping them cool with wet, grimy towels.

“I felt so hot, I was vomiting,” an elderly man told CNN. “I felt weak and my heart sank.”

Overpacked morgue

At the Edhi morgue, the largest still operating in Karachi, the picture is even more dismal. A charity runs the facility, but it’s struggling.

The stench of death is felt even before visitors reach the gates.

02:26 - Source: CNN
Pakistan morgue overwhelmed by heat wave deaths

A handwritten sign outside says the morgue is filled to capacity, while bodies lie outside.

Daily power outages, as the city tries to keep up with the demands of 16 million residents, mean the cold storage unit that houses bodies is hot and sticky.

The dead, it seems, are denied the dignity they deserve.

Brutal heat

The city is used to baking in the heat around this time of the year, just before the monsoon rains arrive as welcome relief.

But this year’s heat wave has been particularly brutal.

It began Friday. On Saturday, temperatures reached 44.8 degrees Celsius (112.64 degrees Fahrenheit) – the highest-recorded temperature in the country in the last 15 years.

Sunday’s temperature dipped slightly to 42.5 Celsius (108.5 F).

Cooler temperatures are expected to arrive later in the week.

Ramadan obligations

The heat wave comes at a time when this predominantly Muslim country’s citizens are observing Ramadan. During the holy month, the faithful fast from sunup until sundown.

This means that, amidst these scorching temperatures, Pakistanis are forgoing food and water.

Clerics are reminding residents that they can forego fasting if they feel the soaring temperatures are life-threatening.

“My son had a high temperature and then he had a fit,” one woman told CNN

Asked if she had water and electricity, she replied, “Nothing. We have none of those things.”

Such is the state of affairs in the beleaguered seaport city of Karachi. A record-breaking heat wave has killed 800 in the city and 38 others elsewhere in Sindh province, according to the chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Agency, Gen. Asghar Nawaz. Authorities fear the toll will only rise.

CNN’s Saima Mohsin reported from Karachi, and Euan McKirdy wrote from Hong Kong.