KARACHI: Most of the victims of last week's killer heatwave in Pakistan's Sindh Province were homeless, beggers or drug addicts living on the streets here, a minister said today as the death toll reached nearly 1300.
"The inquiry into the deaths of nearly 1300 people from the heatwave had found that two-thirds of the victims were homeless," health minister Jam Mehtab Dahar told PTI.
Pakistan's biggest city and the financial capital Karachi was shaken by a scorching heatwave last week when temperatures soared to round 45 degrees Celsius and coupled with heavy power breakdowns and load shedding led to the deaths of hundreds of people.
"Nearly 60 to 65 per cent victims were homeless, beggers or drug addicts abandoned on the streets. They had no shelter and were hit hard by the heatwave," he added.
Karachi with population between 18 to 20 million saw a flow of bodies being brought to government hospitals or patients affected by heat-related illness passing away in these hospitals.
Raza Kazim, a spokesman for the Edhi Foundation which runs a private ambulance service and Karachi's main morgue, said they were still receiving dead bodies and had buried around 160 unclaimed bodies.
The heatwave hit Karachi between June 20 and June 21, the heat subsided to the mid-30s later in the week as the city's customary cooling sea breeze returned.
The minister said the deceased included a large number of elderly women and men who passed away in their homes probably because the power breakdowns didn't allow them access to fans or air conditioners.
Many cases were of suffocation and heat strokes because of absence of ventilation and cool breeze, he said.
This year's heatwave has also coincided with the start of the holy month of Ramadhan, during which millions of devout Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.