The death toll from a severe heatwave in southern Pakistan is edging towards 800, with the threat of more deaths to come as temperatures remain unseasonably high for the fourth consecutive day, officials have told Al Jazeera.

At least 775 people have died of heatstroke, dehydration or other heat-related illnesses in Karachi, the country?s largest city, since Saturday, according to government figures.

?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 8,000 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.

On Wednesday, the grounds outside the JPMC?s Emergency Ward are teeming with people, many seeking relief goods such as blocks of ice, cold water and juices from one of the many aid tents that have sprung up here overnight. Inside the ward, the crowds have begun to lessen.

?Mostly people coming here are facing heatstroke and they are old people. Their ages are around 45 to 50 years old, so the older they are, the more serious problems they are facing,? Junaid Ahmad, a volunteer, told Reuters news agency.171534d804224a079600ea1451a8c455_18

The provincial government in Sindh has declared Wednesday a public holiday for schools and government offices due to the extreme heat, but many private offices have remained open.

A state of emergency has also been declared in the province?s hospitals, while the government has also set up several heatstroke aid centres.

?We are launching awareness programmes through radio channels and in hospitals, that people must not expose themselves to direct heat and must drink plenty of water,? Jam Mehtab Dahar, the provincial health minister, told Al Jazeera.

Dr Jamali said that one of the reasons why there were so many deaths during this heatwave was that ?people have no coping mechanisms, and there are power outages, they don?t even have fans in their places?, and that many of those who died were those with existing health problems.

Temperatures have hit as high as 43 degrees Celsius since Saturday, accompanied by high humidity and a lull in the city?s usually cooling sea breeze.

The maximum temperature recorded in Karachi on Tuesday was 41C, while other cities in the province such as Sukkur, Jacobabad, and Larkana, hit highs of 45C, 44C and 43C respectively.

The spike in temperatures comes as many in Muslim-majority Pakistan are fasting during daylight hours to observe Ramadan, further exacerbating the situation.

Source: Aljazeera


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