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Dozens Killed In Heat Wave In Karachi, Edhi Foundation Says

A volunteer sprays water on people to keep them cool as temperatures reached 44 Celsius in Karachi on May 21.
A volunteer sprays water on people to keep them cool as temperatures reached 44 Celsius in Karachi on May 21.

A heat wave has killed 65 people in Pakistan's largest city of Karachi over the past three days, a social welfare group said.

The heat wave has coincided with power outages and the holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours. Temperatures hit 44 degrees Celsius on May 21, the weather service said.

Faisal Edhi, who runs the Edhi Foundation that operates morgues and an ambulance service, said the deaths occurred mostly in the poor areas of Karachi, which is home to more than 15 million people.

"Sixty-five people have died over the last three days," Edhi told Reuters. "Neighborhood doctors have said they died of heatstroke."

Sindh Province Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho denied that anyone had died, however, telling the Dawn newspaper that "I categorically reject that people have died due to heatstroke in Karachi."

A heat wave in 2015 left morgues and hospitals overwhelmed and killed at least 1,200 mostly elderly, sick, and homeless people.

In 2015, the Edhi morgue ran out of freezer space after about 650 bodies were brought in the space of a few days. Ambulances left decaying corpses outside in the sweltering heat.

The provincial government has assured residents that there would be no repeat of 2015 and was working on ensuring those in need of care receive rapid treatment.

Edhi told Reuters that most of the dead brought to the morgue were working-class factory workers who came from the low-income Landhi and Korangi areas of Karachi.

"They work around heaters and boilers in textile factories and there is eight to nine hours of [scheduled power outages] in these areas," he said.

Temperatures are expected to stay above 40 degrees until May 24, according to weather forecasters.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters
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