Pakistan heat wave: Death toll passes 700

KARACHI. KAZINFORM - At the Edhi morgue in Karachi, the smell is overwhelming, CNN informs.

Sixty bodies lie in storage. But an oppressive heat wave -- and the frequent power outages from electricity grids trying to keep up with demand -- means the morgue is unable to properly temperature-control the overcrowded facility. A hand-written sign outside says the morgue is filled to capacity. Such is the state of affairs in the beleaguered seaport city of Karachi. A record-breaking heatwave has killed 748 in Sindh province, where Karachi is located. Authorities fear the toll will only rise. The Rangers, Pakistan's paramilitary force, has set up 10 relief centers across the city, distributing water and salt tablets. But even that has proven inadequate. Ambulance after ambulance arrive at Karachi's Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Center with a steady stream of victims suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion. More than 2,300 have been treated for heat stroke in just that hospital alone, officials said. Throughout the province, the local government has canceled leaves for medical personnel and brought in extra help to deal with the onslaught of patients.

Brutal heatwave The city is used to baking in the heat around this time of the year, just before the monsoon rains arrive as welcome relief. But this year's heatwave has been particularly brutal. It began Friday. On Saturday, temperatures reached 44.8 degrees Celsius (112.64 degrees Fahrenheit) -- the highest-recorded temperature in the country in the last 15 years. Sunday's temperature dipped slightly to 42.5 Celsius (108.5 F). Cooler temperatures are expected to arrive later in the week.

Ramadan obligations add pressure The heatwave comes at a time when the citizens in this predominantly Muslim country are observing Ramadan. During the holy month, the faithful fast from sunup until sundown. This means, that amidst these scorching temperatures, Pakistanis are forgoing food and water. Certain segments of the population, however, are excused from fasting, such as the elderly and the infirm. Making matters worse, Karachi is dealing with frequent power outages as the electricity grids are unable to keep up with the demand in the city of 20 million. To the east, a heat wave struck Pakistan's neighbor India last month, killing more than 2,000 people.

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