From furnace to flood: World’s hottest city in Pakistan is now under water

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Not long ago, Sara Khan, headmistress of a school for disadvantaged girls in Jacobabad, southern Pakistan, watched in alarm as some female students fainted from the heat: the city was the hottest in the world at some point in May.

Now, after severe monsoon rains submerged much of the country, their classrooms are flooded and many of the 200 students have been left homeless and looking to get enough food while caring for injured relatives.

These extreme weather events in a short time have wreaked havoc across the country, leaving hundreds dead, isolating communities, destroying homes, and raising health and food safety concerns.

Jacobabad has not been spared. In May, temperatures topped 50 degrees Celsius, drying out canal beds and causing some residents to pass out from heat stroke. Today, parts of the city are under water, although the flooding has receded from the worst level.

In the Khan neighborhood in the east of the city, houses have been severely damaged. On Thursday, Khan said he heard screams at a neighbor’s house when the roof collapsed from water damage, killing his 9-year-old son.

“Jacobabad is the hottest city in the world, there are so many challenges … before people were suffering from heat stroke, now they have lost their homes, almost everything,” he told Reuters.

At least 19 people in the city of about 200,000 people died in the floods, including children, according to the deputy commissioner of the municipality, while hospitals reported that many more were sick or injured.

More than 40,000 people are living in temporary shelters, most in overcrowded schools with limited access to food. One of the displaced, Dur Bibi, 40, sitting under a tent on a school grounds, recalled the moment she fled when waters flooded her house last week.

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“I grabbed my children and ran out of the house barefoot,” she said, adding that the only thing they had time to take was a copy of the Koran.

EXTREME WEATHER

The disaster in Jacobabad, where many people live in poverty, highlights the challenges that extreme weather events linked to climate change can create.

“A manifestation of climate change is the most frequent and intense occurrence of extreme events, and this is exactly what we have seen in Jacobabad and elsewhere around the world in recent months,” said Athar Hussain, director of the Center for Research and Development of the Climate at COMSATS University in Islamabad.

A study earlier this year by World Weather Attribution, an international team of scientists, found that the heat wave that hit Pakistan in March and April was 30 times more likely due to climate change.

In Jacobabad, health, education and development officials said record temperatures followed by unusually heavy rain were straining essential services.

Hospitals that set up emergency heat stroke centers in May are now reporting an influx of people injured in floods and patients with gastroenteritis and skin conditions from unsanitary conditions.

Rizwan Shaikh, director of the Jacobabad Bureau of Meteorology, recorded a maximum temperature of 51 degrees in May. He is now tracking persistent heavy rain and notes with alarm that there are two more weeks of monsoon season left.

“All districts are in a very tense situation,” he explained.

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