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65 dead in Karachi, Pakistan, as temperature tops 111 degrees

The heat wave has coincided with power outages and the start of Ramadan, when most Muslims do not eat or drink during the day.
An official pours water on a man to prevent a heatstroke at a roadside clinic set up during a severe heat wave in Karachi, Pakistan, on Tuesday. Fareed Khan / AP

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A heat wave 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 that the death toll could climb as the high temperatures persist.

The heat wave 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 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, local media reported.

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

"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 heatstroke."

A government spokesman 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 heatstroke.

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

Nonetheless, reports of heatstroke deaths in Karachi will stir unease amid fears of a repeat of a heat wave in 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 over a few days. Ambulances left decaying corpses outside in sweltering heat.

The provincial government has assured residents that there will be no repeat of 2015 and is working on ensuring that those in need of care receive rapid treatment.