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Pakistan parched and pummelled by blistering heatwave

Swathes of Pakistan have been smothered by high temperatures since late April . ©AFP

Jacobabad (Pakistan) (AFP) - Pakistan was in the grip of a heatwave on Friday, with parts of the nation previously scalded by temperatures of nearly 50 degrees Celsius as officials warned of acute water shortages and a health threat.

Swathes of the country have been smothered by high temperatures since late April, in extreme weather the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has warned is consistent with climate change.

On Thursday the city of Jacobabad in Sindh province hit 49.5C (121 degrees Fahrenheit), the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said, with temperatures forecast to remain high until the end of the week.

"It's like fire burning all around," said labourer Shafi Mohammad, who is from a village on the outskirts of Jacobabad where residents struggle to find reliable access to drinking water.

Nationwide, the PMD alerted temperatures were between 6C and 9C above normal, with the capital Islamabad -- as well as provincial hubs Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar -- recording temperatures around 40C on Friday.

"This year we have jumped from winter right into summer," said PMD chief forecaster Zaheer Ahmad Babar.

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 told AFP.

Jacobabad nurse Bashir Ahmed says that, for the past six years, heat stroke cases in the city have been diagnosed earlier in the year -- starting in May, rather than June or July.

"This is just increasing," he said.

'Take cover'

Punjab province irrigation spokesman Adnan Hassan said the Indus river -- Pakistan's key waterway -- had shrunk by 65 per cent "due to a lack of rains and snow" this year.

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," Hassan said.

On Tuesday climate minister Sherry Rehman warned residents in the megacity of Lahore "to take cover for the hottest hours of the day".

The heatwave has also ravaged India, with temperatures in parts of Rajasthan hitting 48.1C on Thursday.

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

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

Extreme heat can also trigger cascading disasters that could pummel Pakistan's generally impoverished population.

The mountainous portions of the country are home to more than 7,000 glaciers, a number larger than any region outside the poles.

Quickly melting glaciers can swell lakes, which then burst their banks and unleash torrents of ice, rock and water in events known as glacial lake outburst floods.

Last weekend a key highway bridge in the Gilgit-Baltistan region was swept away in flash flooding caused by glacier melting.

In April, officials warned there were 33 lakes in Pakistan in danger of unleashing similar dangerous deluges.

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Dive Deeper:
South Asia pummelled by heatwave that hits 50C in Pakistan
Jacobabad (Pakistan) (AFP) - South Asia was in the grip of an extreme heatwave on Friday, with parts of Pakistan…
Birds ‘fall from the sky’ as India’s blistering heatwaves intensify
Schools are also told to suspend uniforms, adjust classroom hours and ensure teachers can administer first aid for pupils with…
South Africa’s April floods made twice as likely by climate crisis, scientists say
Brutal heatwave in India and Pakistan also certain to have been exacerbated by global heating, scientists say
Delhi heatwave alert: Temp soars over 47 degrees on Saturday; likely to rise further tomorrow
Temperatures touched a high of 47.2 degrees Celsius at Mungeshpur and 47 degrees Celsius at Najafgarh.
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Heatwave to intensify further in Delhi amid soaring mercury: Check IMD update here
Officials of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said heatwave conditions are likely to be declared over the Delhi, with a…
Heatwave in Delhi-NCR today; Rainfall, storm in these states till May 17: IMD
IMD has advised people with moderate health conditions residing in Northern India to avoid venturing outside their homes unless absolutely…
Get all your news in one place