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Death toll reaches 289 in sizzling Pakistan

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Islamabad_(dpa) _ At least 57 more people died across Pakistan due to exposure to intense heat, raising the death toll to at least 289, media reports said on Thursday.

The central province of Punjab, with an average temperature of 42 degrees Celsius, was hard hit by the hot and humid weather that killed 44 people on Wednesday, the English-language daily The News reported.

People battled the sizzling temperatures amid frequent power outages as the country was facing its worst ever energy crisis, with electricity demand exceeding the supply by 2,900 megawatts.

Violent protests were staged in the port city of Karachi, where a major fault in one of the electricity generating units caused power cuts that continued in some cases for 12 hours.

Police used tear gas to control the mob that attacked the offices of the local electricity supplier and manhandled the staff there. The protestors also blocked city roads by placing large stones and burning tires.

Lawmakers associated with opposition parties staged a sit-in protest outside the parliament in the capital Islamabad and lambasted the government of President Pervez Musharraf for not investing in power generation projects.

Meanwhile, the persistent heatwave is making an indirect impact on business activity throughout the country, as consumers prefer staying indoors to avoid the blistering heat while industrial units are not functioning at optimum level due to power outages. dpa yam jh

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