JACOBABAD (AFP) - South Asia was in the grip of an extreme heatwave on Friday (May 13), with parts of Pakistan reaching a temperature of 50 deg C as officials warned of acute water shortages and a health threat.
Swathes of Pakistan and neighbouring India have been smothered by high temperatures since April in extreme weather that the World Meteorological Organisation has warned is consistent with climate change.
On Friday, the city of Jacobabad in Sindh province hit 50 deg C, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said, with temperatures forecast to remain high until Sunday.
"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 6 deg C and 9 deg C above normal, with the capital Islamabad - as well as provincial hubs Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar - recording temperatures around 40 deg C 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, especially 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, heatstroke 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.
Far worse may be on the horizon for South Asia as climate change continues apace, top climate scientists have said.
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," Mr Hassan said.
Pakistan's climate minister Sherry Rehman this week warned residents in the megacity of Lahore "to take cover for the hottest hours of the day".
The heatwave has also ravaged India, with ...