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A man covers his head with a piece of cloth during a heatwave in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Xinhua News Agency/PA Images
Climate Change

Temperatures close to 50 degrees in Pakistan during major South-Asia heatwave

“It’s like fire burning all around,” said labourer Shafi Mohammad, who is from a village where residents struggle to find drinking water.

OFFICIALS IN PAKISTAN have warned of acute water shortages as a result of a blistering heatwave which has been deemed a threat to health.

Parts of the country have been struggling with extremely high temperatures since late April while the city of Jacobabad in Sindh province hit 49.5 degrees yesterday.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has forecast that temperatures will remain the same until the end of the week.

PMD Chief Forecaster Zaheer Ahmad Babar said: “This year we have jumped from winter right into summer”.

Pakistan has endured heightened heatwaves since 2015, he said, focused in upper Sindh province and southern Punjab province.

“The intensity is increasing, and the duration is increasing, and the frequency is increasing,” he said.

A nurse in Jacobabad told the AFP that for the past six years, heatstroke cases in the city have been diagnosed earlier in the year – starting in May, rather than June or July.

Nationwide temperatures are between 6 and 11 degrees hotter than normal for the time of year, which the World Meteorological Organization has said is due to the effects of climate change.

Sheep have reportedly died from heatstroke and dehydration in the Cholistan Desert of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province which also serves as the national breadbasket.

“There is a real danger of a shortfall in food and crop supply this year in the country should the water shortage persist,” one official said.

The Indus river, Pakistan’s key waterway, has shrunk by 65% due to the lack of rain and snow in the past year.

On Tuesday, Climate Minister Sherry Rehman warned residents in the eastern megacity of Lahore “to take cover for the hottest hours of the day”.

Pakistan, home to 220 million people, says it is responsible for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

However, it ranks as the eighth most affected nation by extreme weather events, according to a 2021 study by environmental group Germanwatch.

The heatwave has also ravaged India, with temperatures in parts of Rajasthan hitting 48.1 degrees on Thursday and expected to hit 46 degrees in Delhi anytime from Sunday.

Suman Kumari, 19, a student who lives in northwest Delhi, told AFP: “It was so hot today that I felt exhausted and sick while returning from college in a bus. The bus seemed like an oven. With no air conditioning, it was sizzling hot inside,” she said.

© AFP 2022

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