Ramadan heatwave death toll rises to 1,000 in Pakistan

Published June 25th, 2015 - 12:00 GMT

The death toll from a scorching heat wave in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh has gone beyond 1,000, while a cool wind from the sea brings a minor respite to the major port city of Karachi.

Pakistani officials said on Thursday that the toll across Sindh has climbed to 1,011, with at least 229 fatalities reported by government and private hospitals on Wednesday.

The authorities said that some 40,000 people have been affected by heatstroke and dehydration, and as many as 7,500 of them are receiving treatment in the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center of Karachi, located 1,146 kilometers (712 miles) east of the capital, Islamabad.

A senior medical official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a total of 950 people have died in Karachi, while the rest died in other parts of Sindh Province.

According to the figures collected from various hospitals, of the 950 deaths in Karachi, 729 were recorded in government-run health facilities and 221 in private hospitals.

The Sindh provincial government declared a public holiday on Tuesday to encourage people to stay indoors and out of the sun. There are reports that many of the victims were laborers, who normally work outdoors.

Meanwhile, Tahir Ashrafi, a prominent Muslim cleric, has urged those who are sick and frail to skip fasting in the holy month of Ramadan.

“We [religious scholars] have highlighted it on various television channels that those who are at risk, especially in Karachi where there is a very serious situation, should abstain from fasting,” he said.

“Islam has drawn conditions for fasting – it is even mentioned in the holy Qur’an that patients and travelers who are not able to bear fasting can delay it and people who are weak or old and are at risk of falling sick or even dying because of fasting should abstain,” Ashrafi said.

Weather reports say winds have started blowing cooler air into hard-hit Karachi – which is Pakistan’s largest city and its commercial hub – from the Arabian Sea. Also, Pakistan's Meteorological Department has predicted rain.

The temperature in Karachi, which had reached 45 degrees Celsius over the weekend, subsided to 37 on Thursday.

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