A heat wave in southern Pakistan has caused so much death in the country that morgues are overflowing, local medical workers say.

"They are piling bodies one on top of the other," Seemin Jamali, an official at a government hospital in Karachi, said of the city's overflowing morgues in an interview with Al Jazeera. Anwar Kazmi, an official with the Pakistani charity Edhi Welfare Organisation, told Agence France-Presse that the morgues had "reached capacity."

Pakistan's heat wave has been described as the worst in decades, with temperatures soaring to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperatures hit during the Islamic month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were fasting during daylight hours. As of Thursday, reports in the Pakistani media put the death toll at 1,200, though temperatures have begun to fall.

Things got so bad that some morgues have put up signs outside, explaining that they are full.

Photographs taken from inside one morgue show how crowded it has become.


Volunteers try to identify a body among others of those who have died due to an intense heat wave at the Edhi Foundation morgue in Karachi on June 22.  (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

A man waits, right, while volunteers search for the body of his deceased relative among the bodies of heat wave victims at Edhi Foundation morgue in Karachi on June 22. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

The scale of crowding at the morgues had some major ill effects, Kazmi told Reuters. "The refrigeration unit was not working properly because there were too many bodies," the official explained.

On Tuesday, the Express Tribune reported that authorities were now attempting to bury unidentified bodies within a day to help deal with the backlog, but gravediggers were taking advantage of the situation and charging double their normal rates.

As horrific as Pakistan's situation is, it's not the first major heat wave of the year to result in deaths in South Asia. A heat wave in India in late May was blamed for the deaths of 2,500, making it one of the deadliest heat waves in history (Pakistan's heat wave would also find a place on that list).

And while infrastructure problems definitely play a role in the death toll (power cuts coincided with the heat wave in Pakistan), an even more difficult factor also plays a major role. As The Post's Wonkblog noted this year, climate change may not always create these extreme weather events, but it certainly makes them worse.

 

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