1,000 Dead in Pakistan’s Heat Wave, as Monsoons Are Late

Mortality resulting from high temperatures isn’t limited to poor countries.

A woman wets her burqa to cool her father's head outside the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre in Karachi on June 24. (Photo: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

Jun 25, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

The devastating heat wave that has scorched southern Pakistan with temperatures as high as 113 degrees marked a grim toll Thursday: 1,000 have died in Karachi, where morgues are running out of space and hospitals are short of beds, according to The New York Times.

“Most of the dead, many of them drug addicts and the homeless, have come from the poor areas of the city,” the Times reports.

Health care workers are working overtime to treat dehydration and heat stroke in 14,000 people who have flooded hospitals. Air conditioners have not been much help, as the hours-long power outages that regularly afflict the country have become more frequent.

In recent decades, the poverty rate in Pakistan has fallen radically—from 34 percent in 2001 to 12.4 percent in 2011, a dramatic improvement, according to the country’s officials.

So, Why Should You Care? Heat waves have proved deadly all around the world in recent years, killing in rich and poor countries alike. With climate change, extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent. Last month, 2,300 died in Indian villages. During the summer of 2003, some 70,000 died across 16 European countries. In Chicago in 1995, more than 700 died (and 18 more perished from heat in that city in 2012). A report issued earlier this week from the Environmental Protection Agency predicts that heat waves in major U.S. cities will kill 12,000 a year by 2100.

The heat is the latest in a string of deadly natural disasters in Pakistan in the last decade. More than 70,000 people were killed in October 2005 when a magnitude-7.6 earthquake struck Kashmir. Flooding displaced or affected 20 million people in 2010 when the Indus River overflowed. The economic effects of those disasters were “not as great as might be expected,” according to The Economist, something it attributes to the “extraordinary resilience of rural Pakistan.”

A man cools off under a public tap while others wait to fill their bottles in Karachi on June 23. (Photo: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)