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EXCLUSIVE: Heatwave deaths in Karachi linked to climate change, says expert

By Azhar Khan and Raza Haidery

KARACHI: It was so unusual for the Karachiites to brave the scorching sun with mercury touching 45 centigrade –the highest temperature during last ten years in the city – and deaths of over 700 compatriots due to heatwave raises several questions on the government for its apparent failure to tackle the problem.

Some clerics have issued public warnings saying that physically weak people can abstain from fasting in these tough conditions.

What caused so many deaths?

Temperature in Karachi generally stays at around 28 to 30 centigrade during summer, however this time around the heatwave was so brutal that it claimed over 700 lives.

“The reason for the Karachi deaths in my understanding is the Ethramul Ramazan Ordinance which prevents anyone from drinking or offering water to anyone in public”, says Arif Hassan, a well-known architect and recepient of second hightest civilian award Hilal-e-Imtiaz, while speaking to Arynews.tv

More to the woes of citizens, electricity shortages have crippled the water supply system in Karachi, hampering the pumping of millions of gallons of water to consumers.

Temperatures remained at around 44.5 Celsius in Karachi on Tuesday but thunderstorms were forecast for the evening, Pakistan’s Meteorological Office said.

When contacted, policy officer CCAP (World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan) Farrukh Zaman, told Arynews.tv that it’s likely that the recent episode of heatwave is linked to climate change and that such events will increase in frequency and intensity as global temperatures rise.

He informed that the recent report of Inter-government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR5, an extensive scientific work carried out by world’s scientists, also corroborates that due to rising temperatures heatwaves in South Asia have increased by the mid of 20th century. Zaman underlined that this trend will likely to continue and heat related mortality will increase.

The provincial government meanwhile announced a public holiday to encourage residents to stay inside, an official said. Many of the victims have been labourers who toil outdoors.

How to beat the heatwave?

Plenty of liquids should be taken in order to stay away from heat related illnesses. Consuming liquids from time to time will help the person maintain his water level in the body. However, consuming extremely cold water will pave the way for stomach cramps.

The amount of physical activity should be reduced and maximum rest should be taken in intense summers. Physical exercises should be scheduled for cooler part of the day if it is unavoidable.

Light meals should be taken on regular basis and lightweight clothing should be donned during excessive summers. If a person falls victim to heat exhaustion, clothes such as socks and shoes should be removed at once.

You can ensure that your body does not suffocate in the warm weather by not wearing excess, warm clothing which is sure to cause suppression, discomfort and suffocation so that your body can stay relaxed and blood circulation is not hindered.

Showers and baths should be taken in order to beat the heat. Generously pour water over your scalp, the nape of the neck and behind the ears which will induce a lasting, internal cooling effect on the human body.

Wet and cool pieces of cloth along with ice should be applied on body parts such as head, face, neck, armpits and groin region. If a person falls unconscious due to heat then spray his face with water in order for him to regain consciousness.

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