Schools shut, hospitals on alert as Pakistan sizzles at 50 degrees

IANS Photo

Islamabad, May 21 (IANS/DPA) Pakistan ordered school closures, postponed exams and put hospitals on alert as a severe heatwave swept the climate-vulnerable country with daytime temperatures likely to cross 50 degrees Celsius in some areas, officials said on Tuesday.

They see temperatures rising up to 8 degrees Celsius above normal levels.

The heatwave - the first for the South Asian nation this summer - follows heavy rains and flash floods that killed more than 100 people a couple of weeks ago, highlighting erratic weather patterns.

The daytime temperatures in some southern and south-western parts were likely to cross 50 degrees Celsius during the weeklong heatwave, Pakistan’s chief meteorologist Sardar Sarfraz said.

It would be the third consecutive year when temperatures breach the 50-degree benchmark - a level that poses immense risk to humans and livestock, Sarfraz said.

Schools in the central province of Punjab will remain closed until May 31 to protect children from a direct exposure to sunshine, Provincial Education Minister Rana Sikander said.

Hospitals in the province of more than 100 million people had been ordered to prepare for the influx, Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz said.

In the southern province of Sindh, all exams due this week have been postponed to next week, when the heatwave is expected to subside, regional minister Sharjeel Memon said.

In the mountainous north, authorities were preparing for an evacuation after warnings that the heatwave might trigger Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) in the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindukush regions.

Hundreds of people are killed in Pakistan every year in climate-induced incidents while thousands lose their homes and livelihoods in a country that contributes hardly anything to global carbon emissions, according to official stats.