Pakistan heatwave kills 65 people in Karachi: welfare organization

ISLAMABAD, May 22 (Reuters) - A heatwave has killed 65 people in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi over the past three days, a social welfare organization said on Tuesday, amid fears the death toll could climb as the high temperatures persist.

The heatwave has coincided with power outages and the holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours. Temperatures hit 111 Fahrenheit on Monday, local media reported.

Faisal Edhi, who runs the Edhi Foundation that operates morgues and an ambulance service in Pakistan's biggest city, said the deaths occurred mostly in the poor areas of Karachi.

"Sixty-five people have died over the last three days," Edhi told Reuters. "We have the bodies in our cold storage facilities and their neighborhood doctors have said they died of heat-stroke."

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Residents sleep on a building pavement, to escape heat and frequent power outage in their residence area Karachi, Pakistan May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Pakistani volunteers adjust the dead bodies of heatwave victims at the Edhi Foundation morgue in Karachi on May 22, 2018. - Dozens of people are feared to have died in a heatwave gripping Pakistan's largest city Karachi this week, a charity in the sprawling metropolis said on May 22, as temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit). (Photo by IMRAN ALI / AFP) (Photo credit should read IMRAN ALI/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani volunteers from Edhi Foundation give a cool shower to an elderly man on a hot summer day in Karachi on May 22, 2018. - Dozens of people are feared to have died in a heatwave gripping Pakistan's largest city Karachi this week, a charity in the sprawling metropolis said on May 22, as temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit). (Photo by Imran ALI / AFP) (Photo credit should read IMRAN ALI/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents sleep on a pavement to escape heat and frequent power outages in their residential area in Karachi, Pakistan May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
Pakistani people cover their faces as they travel on a hot summer day at Islamkot in Tharparkar district in Sindh province on May 22, 2018. - Dozens of people are feared to have died in a heatwave gripping Pakistan's largest city Karachi this week, a charity in the sprawling metropolis said on May 22, as temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit). (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani men cover their faces as they travel on a hot summer day at Islamkot in Tharparkar district in Sindh province on May 22, 2018. - Dozens of people are feared to have died in a heatwave gripping Pakistan's largest city Karachi this week, a charity in the sprawling metropolis said on May 22, as temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit). (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani residents cool off at a water supply pipelines during on a summer day in Karachi on May 22, 2018. - Dozens of people are feared to have died in a heatwave gripping Pakistan's largest city Karachi this week, a charity in the sprawling metropolis said on May 22, as temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit). (Photo by Imran ALI / AFP) (Photo credit should read IMRAN ALI/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani villagers sit under trees on a hot summer day at Islamkot in Tharparkar district in Sindh province on May 22, 2018. - Dozens of people are feared to have died in a heatwave gripping Pakistan's largest city Karachi this week, a charity in the sprawling metropolis said on May 22, as temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit). (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
A Pakistani villager walks with his camels on a street on a hot summer day at Islamkot in Tharparkar district in Sindh province on May 22, 2018. - Dozens of people are feared to have died in a heatwave gripping Pakistan's largest city Karachi this week, a charity in the sprawling metropolis said on May 22, as temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit). (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani residents cool off at Clifton beach during a heat wave in Karachi on May 21, 2018. - Residents of Pakistan's largest city Karachi were urged to seek shelter Monday as the temperature hit 44 degrees Celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit), sparking fears of widespread heatstroke during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. The Pakistan Meteorological Department warned the sweltering heat would continue throughout the week, forecasting daytime temperatures of between 40-43 degrees. (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani workers cool down with water during a hot summer day in Karachi on May 20, 2018. (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani residents cool off at Clifton beach during a heat wave in Karachi on May 21, 2018. - Residents of Pakistan's largest city Karachi were urged to seek shelter Monday as the temperature hit 44 degrees Celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit), sparking fears of widespread heatstroke during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. The Pakistan Meteorological Department warned the sweltering heat would continue throughout the week, forecasting daytime temperatures of between 40-43 degrees. (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani labourers rest under the trees during a hot summer day in Karachi on May 20, 2018. (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani workers cool down with water during a hot summer day in Karachi on May 20, 2018. (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
A Pakistani worker cools down with water during a hot summer day in Karachi on May 20, 2018. (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani youth enjoy a swim in a canal during a hot summer day in Lahore on May 20, 2018. (Photo by ARIF ALI / AFP) (Photo credit should read ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images)
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A government spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

But Sindh province's Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho told the English-language Dawn newspaper that no one has died from heat-stroke.

“Only doctors and hospitals can decide whether the cause of death was heat-stroke or not. I categorically reject that people have died due to heat-stroke in Karachi," Pechuho was quoted as saying.

Nonetheless, reports of heat stroke deaths in Karachi will stir unease amid fears of a repeat of a heatwave in of 2015, when morgues and hospitals were overwhelmed and at least 1,300 mostly elderly and sick people died from the searing heat.

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 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 said 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 104F until Thursday, local media reported.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic Editing by Alison Williams)

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