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Jacobabad: The world’s hottest city in Pakistan is now under water

Not long ago, Sarah Khan, the principal of a school for underprivileged girls in Jacobabad in southern Pakistan, looked on caution as some students fainted from the heat – the world’s hottest city was at some point in May.

Now, with torrential monsoon rains inundating large parts of the country, their classrooms are inundated and many of the 200 students are homeless, struggling to get enough food and care for injured relatives.

Such extreme weather events in no time have caused chaos across the country, killing hundreds of people, cutting off communities, destroying homes and infrastructure, and raising concerns about health and food security.

Jacobabad did not deliver. In May, temperatures exceeded 50 °C (122 °F), drying up the channel’s basins and causing some residents to collapse due to heat stroke. Today, parts of the city are inundated with water, although the floods have receded from their peak.

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Families travel through the water-filled streets on a motorbike and on a donkey cart in Jacobabad, Pakistan.
Travelers travel through water-laden streets, after rain and floods during the monsoon season in Jacobabad, Pakistan, August 30, 2022 [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

In the Khan neighborhood, east of the city, houses were severely damaged. She said she heard screams Thursday from a neighbor’s house when the roof collapsed due to water damage, killing their nine-year-old son.

Many of her students are unlikely to return to school for several months, having already lost class time during the harsh summer heat wave.

“Jacobabad is the hottest city in the world, and there are a lot of challenges…before people got heat stroke, people now lost their homes, almost everything [in the flood]”They have become homeless,” she told Reuters news agency.

The city’s deputy commissioner confirmed 19 people were killed in the city of about 200,000 people, including children, while local hospitals reported that many were injured or injured.

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More than 40,000 people live in temporary shelters, most of them in crowded schools with limited access to food.

One displaced woman, Dor Bibi, 40, sat under a tent on the school grounds and remembers the moment she ran away when water flooded her house all night late last week.

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

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Four days later, she was unable to obtain medicine for her daughter with a fever.

“I don’t have anything but these kids,” she said. “I washed all my belongings in my house.”

extreme weather

The level of disruption in Jacobabad, where many people live in poverty, illustrates some of the challenges that extreme weather events associated with climate change can create.

said Athar Hussain, head of the Center for Climate Research and Development at COMSATS University in Islamabad.

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

Men walk on a flooded street in Jacobabad, Pakistan.
Men walk on a flooded street after rain and floods during the monsoon season in Jacobabad, Pakistan, August 30, 2022 [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Global warming has likely exacerbated the recent floods as well, said Liz Stevens, a climate scientist at the University of Reading in the UK. This is because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, which eventually comes off as heavy rain.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the country, which relies heavily on agriculture, is swaying.

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“If you are a farmer in Jacobabad … you cannot grow your crops because of the scarcity of water and heat during the heat wave and now your crops are damaged by monsoons and floods,” he told Reuters in an interview.

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In Jacobabad, local health, education and development officials said record temperatures followed by unusually heavy rains were straining vital services.

Hospitals that set up emergency heatstroke response centers in May reported an influx of people injured in the floods and patients with gastroenteritis and skin diseases amid unsanitary conditions.

The Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences said it has treated about 70 people in recent days for debris injuries in the floods, including deep wounds and broken bones.

Hospital data showed that more than 800 children were admitted to JIMS due to symptoms of gastroenteritis in August during heavy rain, compared to 380 in the previous month.

At the nearby Civil Hospital, where water was partially covered, Dr Vijay Kumar said cases of patients suffering from gastroenteritis and other ailments had at least tripled since the floods.

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Ridwan Sheikh, head of the Jacobabad Meteorological Office, recorded a high of 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 Fahrenheit) in May. Now he’s tracking the continuing torrential rains and observing with concern that there are two more weeks of monsoon season.

“All neighborhoods are in a very tense situation,” he said.

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