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Pakistan heatwave leaves 1,000 dead in Karachi

ISLAMABAD, June 29 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from a heatwave in Pakistan's commercial center Karachi and parts of southern Sindh province has passed 1,000 over the past ten days, health officials said on Monday.

Nearly 900 died over the past one week only in Karachi, a city of around 20 million people, and more than 100 lost lives in interior Sindh. Majority of those died were in the age of 50 or above. Dozens of low-income laborers were also among the victims who go out for daily work in the sun, according to officials at the gov't-run hospitals. Mass funeral were held for unclaimed bodies.

The Health department in Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital, said a total of 26 more people died on Sunday as there was no let up in deaths due to heatstroke. The metrological department has forecast of 41 Celsius for Monday. Temperature had reached 45 Celsius last week.

Hundreds are still being treated in at least four gov't-owned and several private hospitals.

Chief Minister of Sindh province, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, says the gov't-run hospitals have so far provided medical facilities to nearly 40,000 people.

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

Local officials are criticized for failure to launch a campaign to ensure that people should not be exposed in the sun when a severe heatwave was approaching. The metrological department argued that a break in the routine sea breeze in the port city caused heatwaves.

The power outage and shortage of water in Karachi are blamed for the high number of deaths. People could not use air-condition and fans. Karachi has its own power supply system known as "K- Electric", but it could not meet the fast growing demand of 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 MW of power, forcing the gov't to opt for hours load-shedding that has also sparked violent protests in parts of the country.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had already issued instructions for emergency measures and he is scheduled to visit the city in a couple of days to personally review the situation, the PM office said.

He was earlier planned to travel to Karachi on Monday; however, the visit has been delayed due to his engagements in Islamabad. State television reported the Prime Minister will visit Karachi on Wednesday.

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

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