Not so long ago, Sara Khan, headmistress of a school for underprivileged girls in Jacobabad, southern Pakistan, watched in concern as some students passed out from the heat – the city was the hottest of the world at some point in May.
Now after heavy submerged monsoon rains large parts of the country, its classrooms are flooded and many of the 200 students are homeless, struggling to get enough food and caring for injured loved ones.
Such extreme weather events in a short period of time have wreaked havoc across the country, killing hundreds of people, cutting off communities, destroying homes and infrastructure, and raising health and food security concerns.
Jacobabad was not spared. In May, temperatures weathered 50C (122F), drying out the canal beds and causing some residents to collapse from heat stroke. Today parts of the city are under water, although the floods have receded from their peak.
In the district of Khan, in the east of the city, houses were badly damaged. On Thursday, she said she heard screams coming from a neighbour’s house when the roof collapsed from water damage, killing their nine-year-old son.
Many of his students are unlikely to return to school for months, having already lost class time during the brutal summer heatwave.
“Jacobabad is the hottest city in the world, there are so many challenges…before people got heat stroke, now people lost their homes, almost everything [in the flood]they became homeless,” she told Reuters news agency.
Nineteen people in the city of around 200,000 are confirmed to have died in the floodincluding children, according to the city’s deputy commissioner, while local hospitals reported many more were sick or injured.
More than 40,000 people are living in temporary shelters, mostly in overcrowded schools with limited access to food.
One of the displaced, 40-year-old Dur Bibi, was sitting in a tent on a school grounds and recalled the moment she fled when water gushed into her house during the night of last week.
“I grabbed my children and ran out of the house barefoot,” she said, adding that the only thing they had time to take with them was a copy of the Quran.
Four days later, she couldn’t get medicine for her daughter who is suffering from a fever.
“I have nothing except these children. All the belongings in my house were taken away,” she said.
Extreme weather conditions
The level of disruption in Jacobabad, where many people live in poverty, illustrates some of the challenges that extreme weather events linked to climate change can create.
“A manifestation of climate change is the more frequent and intense occurrence of extreme weather events, and that is exactly what we have seen in Jacobabad as well as elsewhere in the world over the past few months,” Athar said. Hussain, director 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 heatwave that hit Pakistan in March and April was made 30 times more likely by climate change.
Global warming likely also exacerbated recent flooding, said Liz Stephens, a climatologist at the University of Reading in the UK. This is because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, which eventually breaks out in the form of heavy rain.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the country, which relies heavily on agriculture, was in shock.
“If you are a farmer in Jacobabad … you could not plant your crops due to lack of water and heat during the heatwave and now your crops have been damaged by monsoons and floods,” he said. told Reuters in an interview.
In Jacobabad, local health, education and development officials said record high temperatures followed by unusually heavy rains were straining vital services.
Hospitals that set up heatstroke emergency response centers in May are now reporting an influx of flood-injured people and patients with gastroenteritis and skin conditions in unsanitary conditions.
The Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences (JIMS) said it had treated around 70 people in recent days for injuries caused by flood debris, including deep cuts and broken bones.
More than 800 children were admitted to JIMS with symptoms of gastroenteritis in August during heavy rains, up from 380 the previous month, according to hospital data.
At the nearby Civil Hospital, where the land is partially under water, Dr Vijay Kumar said cases of patients suffering from gastroenteritis and other illnesses had at least tripled since the floods.
Rizwan Shaikh, head of the Jacobabad meteorological office, recorded a high temperature of 51°C (123.8°F) in May. Now he is watching the persistent heavy rains and notes with concern that there are still two weeks left in the monsoon season.
“All districts are in a very tense situation,” he said.