06/23/2015, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Temperature hits 45 Celsius, with 224 deaths

The death toll hit 202 in Karachi. An additional 12 died 12 in Punjab. The poor and Muslims are the most affected. More than 150 bodies have been taken to the Edhi morgue, which usually receives about 20 bodies a day. Power outages have crippled the water supply system.

Karachi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Some 224 people are now believed to have died during a heatwave in Pakistan's southern Sindh province.

Karachi is the worst hit with temperatures soaring to 45 degrees Celsius, with power outages caused by increased demand.

The government has called in the military to help relief efforts by setting up heatstroke treatment centres around the city.

The heat wave coincides with the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, a time when devout Muslims abstain from all food and drink during daylight hours.

In Karachi alone, the authorities have reported at least 202 deaths. An additional 12 have died in the southern part of Punjab province.

Most of the victims are poor, suffering from fever, dehydration and gastric problems.

Some 140 deaths have been confirmed at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre with another 62 at the Karachi Civil Hospital, Provincial Health Minister Jam Mehtab Dehar said. However, the actual death toll could be much higher, as other hospitals have not yet provided their data.

Meanwhile, local media reports indicate that since Saturday more than 150 bodies were taken to the Edhi morgue (pictured) in Sohrab Goth, which usually receives about 20 bodies a day.

In light of the situation, the Sindh provincial government has imposed a state of emergency in all hospitals, cancelling leave for doctors and other medical staff, and increasing stocks of medical supplies.

Sher Shah, a veteran medical practitioner and former president of the Pakistan Medical Association, said Karachi's poor were most at risk. Devout Muslims are also at risk since Ramadan began last Friday.

Power cuts from the city's main utility, K-Electric, have exacerbated the effects of the heat wave.  In Karachi, a city of some 20 million people, power shortages have crippled the water supply system, hampering the pumping of millions of litres of water to consumers.

So far, this year's toll is the second highest in the country's history. The all-time record temperature in Karachi is 47C (117F), recorded in 1979.

The weather is expected to be even more hot and humid today, but thunderstorms should bring cooler temperatures towards the end of the week.

The scorching heat is not unusual for the summer months, but the prolonged lack of power seems to have worsened the situation.

In recent weeks, the heat has caused more than 1,700 deaths in neighbouring India.

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