Wind from the sea and pre-monsoon rains cooled southern Pakistan on Wednesday, likely marking the end of a scorching heat wave that killed at least 749 people, authorities said.
Temperatures in hard-hit Karachi dropped to 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 degrees Fahrenheit), meteorologist Abdur Rasheed said. Hospital officials said admittances had dropped compared to previous days, when dehydrated patients lay in corridors and outside of clinics.
The port city has been in the grip of a heat wave called the worst in at least a decade, with temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit). Hourslong power outages, little running water and the majority of people fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan had worsened the situation.
Karachi, home to some 20 million people, suffers under an inefficient power grid and a shortage of potable water. The power outages also affected the sporadic water supply in Karachi, where those who can afford it rely on tankers of water being delivered to their homes.
Mohammad Sabir, a top government official, said at least 749 people had died as a result of the heat wave in Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital.
During the heat wave’s worst days, Karachi’s residents tried to find running water to cool off at public taps or broken pipes. Some bathed with their clothes on, while others washed their hands, faces and heads. As power outages rolled across the city, women and children walked down roads looking for shelter after leaving their small, hot homes.
“We’re forced to sleep in the streets,” resident Muzafar Khan said.
Political parties running the southern province and the federal government blamed each other for the disaster while debating the issue in parliament Wednesday. Some said those in Karachi couldn’t find cars to carry the coffins of their dead to the cemetery and even if they made it, gravediggers overcharged them.
“I literally wept when I heard a poor man didn’t have money to pay to a grave digger,” opposition lawmaker Abdul Rashid Godil said.