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Heatwave alert: Five deaths in Sindh, low attendance in schools

SAMAA | - Posted: May 4, 2018 | Last Updated: 4 years ago
SAMAA |
Posted: May 4, 2018 | Last Updated: 4 years ago

Pakistani travellers ride on a bike with an umbrella during a heatwave in Karachi on June 29, 2015. Nearly two-thirds of the victims of a killer heatwave that swept southern Pakistan last week were homeless people, a minister said as the death toll in Karachi reached over 1,200. Photo: AFP

On Fridays, most men in Pakistan put on a crisp, ironed shalwar kameez and head to the masjid for Friday afternoon prayers. Their religious duties are being interrupted this Friday by the scorching sun and power cuts that do not allow ironing of clothes.

Extreme weather in Sindh has claimed five lives over the past few days. As Karachi braced the year’s hottest day on Thursday at 44 degrees, rescue workers say they have geared up to face more deaths.

Sea breeze has stopped in Karachi. The Met Office says the mercury will soar up till 41 degrees today (Friday). Nawabshah braced the hottest April temperature of the world recently. Five people aged between 60 and 70 years lost their lives in different parts of Sindh on Wednesday and Thursday. Today, a number of people decided not to send their children to school.

Pakistani men rest under a bridge during a heatwave in Karachi on June 29, 2015. Nearly two-thirds of the victims of a killer heatwave that swept southern Pakistan last week were homeless people, a minister said as the death toll in Karachi reached over 1,200. Photo: AFP

The Met Office has issued a heatwave alert for Karachi. According to Dr Ghulam Rasul, the chief of Pakistan Meteorological Department, a heatwave is an increase of five degrees from an average temperature persisting for three or more days.

To make matters worse, power cuts coupled with water shortage are in full swing across Sindh. In poor areas like Karachi’s Orangi Town, Korangi and Surjani Town, load-shedding is often unannounced. Areas like Saddar and Gulshan-e-Iqbal received some respite in the past week. But with temperatures rising, announced and unannounced power cuts are affecting these areas as well.

Weather in Karachi will be hot and humid with 60% water vapour in the air today, says the Pakistan Meteorological Department. As temperatures rise, so does the humidity, which can make it really difficult for those in heavily populated urban areas. “When humans sweat at a time when the air is already saturated with water content, the result will be an increase in body temperature,” said Khuram Pervez Amber, a researcher at Mirpur University of Science and Technology. “This is because the air cannot absorb any more water and the sweat of our bodies does not dry.”

The rising temperature, humidity and hot winds pose a threat to people’s well-being. To deal with this, the leaves of the doctors and staff at public hospitals have been cancelled. Special wards have been set up at different Sindh hospitals, while a cold shower facility has been installed at Qatar Hospital. Heatstroke centres have been set up and rescue teams have been alerted. Heat strokes and dehydration claimed over 1,500 lives in the heatwave that struck Pakistan in 2015.

How to beat the heat:

  • Wear loose, light-coloured clothes
  • Keep a wet towel on your head when directly under the sun
  • Try to stay indoors or under a shade
  • Carry an umbrella while stepping out
  • Keep yourself hydrated. Drink lots of water and keep ORS sachets with you
  • Avoid meat and oily foods; prefer eating vegetables and pulses
  • Special precautions must be taken for children under four years and elderly
  • People with diabetes, heart conditions, hypertension and high blood pressure should especially avoid stepping out

With additional reporting by Shafqat Aziz and Kamran Jalil

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