The head of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) says nearly 800 people have died in Karachi’s heat wave, with around 2000 people being taken to hospital daily.
KARACHI, PAKISTAN (JUNE 24, 2015) (REUTERS) – A heat wave has killed nearly 800 people in Pakistan’s financial hub of Karachi and piled pressure on a beleaguered provincial government.
A spokesperson from the Edhi Foundation, a charitable rescue organisation which runs the largest morgue in the city, said they were running out of space for bodies.
Many of the deaths among the elderly and poor have been caused by dehydration.
The Chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority said the death toll continued to rise in Karachi, a city of 20 million people.
“The Secretary of Health is here with me and the authentic figures have shown that there are around 800 deaths in Karachi, and around 38 deaths from interior Sindh. The daily turnover in hospitals, that is the number of people who are coming in and are being admitted, this is something like more than 2,000,” said Major General Asghar Nawaz.
The NDMA chief was speaking outside a medical centre in Karachi, after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued directives for the organisation to take immediate steps to deal with the crisis.
The country’s powerful military, which heavily criticised the provincial government for corruption last week, is winning praise after it set up 22 health centres to distribute aid.
“Basically, we have deployed the Pakistan army and Pakistan Rangers which are federal departments. At this time, around 29 heat stroke centres set up by them are working in the province, and they are also increasing the number of heat stroke centres in Karachi. They had set up 14 centres in Karachi, now that will be increased to 16. They have been distributing around 77 tons of mineral water. The army and rangers’ camps that you see around the city have been set up thanks to our co-ordination with the army and the rangers,” said Nawaz.
The heat wave has once again exposed Pakistan’s fledgling civilian government’s failure to fund social services, making for a glaring contrast to the military, which often takes the lead in responding to natural disasters.
The lion’s share of the national budget goes to the military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half of its history.
Angry lawmakers blamed each other in parliament for the crisis, feeding perceptions that the city’s political leaders are floundering after a week of temperatures that touched 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit).
Major General Nawaz warned it might not be the last time Pakistan has to deal with such extreme weather conditions.
“At this time, Pakistan has become a high-risk country as far as environmental changes are concerned. What you are witnessing today, we will probably be seeing more of this in the future. And we need to prepare for that, to gear up for it,” he said.
Public services in Pakistan are starved of resources because almost all its wealthy evade taxes. Fewer than 0.5 percent of citizens pay income tax and many legislators are among the tax dodgers.