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Death toll passes 1,000 in heat wave

By Xinhua in Islamabad, Pakistan | China Daily | Updated: 2015-06-30 07:52

Hundreds more victims still being treated as mass funerals held for unclaimed bodies

The death toll from a heat wave in Karachi, Pakistan's commercial center, and parts of southern Sindh province passed 1,000 in the past 10 days, health officials said on Monday.

Nearly 900 died during the past week in Karachi alone, a city of around 20 million people, and more than 100 died in Sindh. The majority of the dead were age 50 or above. Dozens of low-income laborers who go outdoors daily for work in the sun were also among the victims, according to officials at government-run hospitals. Mass funerals were held for unclaimed bodies.

The health department in Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital, said 26 more people died on Sunday. The meteorological department forecast a high temperature of 41 C for Monday. Temperatures reached 45 C last week.

Hundreds are still being treated at various hospitals.

Sindh province Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said the state-run hospitals have so far provided treatment to nearly 40,000 people.

The federal and provincial governments are under fire for their inability to deal with the crisis effectively.

Local officials have been criticized for their failure to launch a campaign ensuring that people not be exposed to the sun when a severe heat wave approaches. The meteorological department argued that a break in normal sea breezes in the port city led to rising heat.

Power outages and shortages of water in Karachi have been blamed for the high number of deaths. People could not use air conditioning and fans. Karachi has its own power supply system, K-Electric, but it could not meet the fast-growing demand for power in the summer. The federal government is now providing some electricity to Karachi from its system.

Officials say Pakistan currently faces a shortage of around 5,000 megawatts of power, forcing the government to opt for hours of load-shedding blackouts that have sparked violent protests in parts of the country.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had issued instructions for emergency measures and is scheduled to visit the city this week to personally review the situation, his office said.

Sharif had planned to travel to Karachi on Monday; however, the visit was delayed. State television reported that Sharif will visit on Wednesday.

The National Disaster Management Authority has joined hands with provincial authorities to take immediate action to tackle the crisis after Sharif's orders.

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