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19 die as rain wreaks havoc on Karachi

Updated August 23, 2017
LIGHTNING as seen from Shahrah-i-Pakistan on Tuesday evening.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
LIGHTNING as seen from Shahrah-i-Pakistan on Tuesday evening.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: A maximum of 41 millimetres of rainfall that the city received late Monday night coupled with gusty winds wreaked havoc on the power supply system and municipal infrastructure as electrocution, falling billboard and roof collapse incidents left at least 19 people dead in different areas before another heavy spell of rain hit the metropolis late Tuesday evening.

The situation turned even worse due to flooding of low-lying areas and prolonged power outages, prompting Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar to order the rain emergency centre to function round the clock for the next two days as the Meteorological Department forecast partly cloudy to cloudy weather with chances of rain and thunderstorm on Wednesday (today).

There was no official word on exact death toll from any government department but the figures of casualties available with hospitals and rescue services of Edhi and Chhipa suggested that a total of 19 people including women and children died in rain-related incidents.

Most of the victims died from electrocution. They included Ruqayya Khatoon, 35, who died in the Rasheedabad area of Khawaja Ajmer Nagri; Fatima Wali Mohammad, 45, in North Nazimabad; Kaleemullah, 45, in Bhangoria Goth area of Azizabad; Aslam, 22, in Madinah Colony area of New Karachi; and Ghulam Mohammad, 45, in Gulshan-i-Iqbal’s Block 18.

Electrocution, falling billboards, roof collapse major causes of deaths; chances of more rain today

Roof collapse emerged as another reason for the casualties. Manzoor, 56, died when the roof of his house, situated in Jamali Goth area, off the Superhighway, collapsed. A similar incident was reported in Kaneez Fatima Society where a man, in his late 30s, died after the roof of his house collapsed. However, his identity could not be ascertained immediately. Another house collapsed in the Metroville area of SITE leaving two of its residents dead. Rescue workers and local police busy in removing the rubble said the house had been raised on a very weak foundation. The rain eroded the weak structure, they added.

The Sindh Building Control Authority had already asked the residents/occupants of ‘dangerous’ buildings to vacate the dilapidated structures as they might collapse in case of rains. SBCA chief Agha Maqsood Abbas told Dawn that the authority had also written letters to the utility agencies to disconnect the supply to these dangerous buildings, as gas leaks or power disruptions could cause blasts as well as electrocutions if these structures collapsed.

SBCA emergency cell

Mr Abbas said the SBCA had set up an emergency centre where technically qualified staffers along with required emergency equipment were present round the clock to provide assistance in case of collapse of any building. He also urged the people to approach the centre on telephone number 99232354 in case of any emergency.

He said there were around 340 dangerous buildings in the metropolis and around 100 dilapidated structures in other parts of the province. Any of them could fall any time, he said, adding that those buildings were even more vulnerable during the rains.

Billboard claims life

The gusty winds, which sounded like a storm, uprooted many old trees, electric poles and billboards during the half-an-hour spell of rain late Monday evening. A 14-year-old boy died at the cattle market set up along the Superhighway when a huge billboard fell on a few people. Two others suffered injuries.

Although the Supreme Court had passed repeated orders to remove all the advertising billboards from roads and public spaces, many billboards reappeared on roads shortly after being removed due to a lacklustre attitude of the city administration/civic agencies.

Power outages

While K-Electric managed to surprise consumers by letting them enjoy the rains keeping outages due to the weather at the very minimum a day earlier, on Tuesday, from as early as 1am onwards, people’s happiness was cut short with several power issues in many areas.

Still the power utility maintained that the overall power supply to Karachi remained intact despite the heavy rainfall with gusty winds. A KE statement also said that strategic installations including key hospitals, the Dhabeji pumping station, and airport remained unaffected. “Heavy showers partially affected KE’s power supply in some areas such as parts of Gulshan, Malir, North Karachi, Gadap, Federal B Area, Landhi and Nazimabad. The affected feeders were re-energised within a few hours of rain,” read the statement.

According to a KE spokesperson, restoration work remained challenging amid intermittent rain spells but the KE ensured that the ground teams followed due safety protocols. “KE’s rapid response teams and contact centre staff remained fully operational round the clock while the power utility also registered customer queries via KE’s 8119 SMS platform and through their Facebook and Twitter pages.”

The downpour accompanied by strong winds also added to the challenge of restoration work. Falling of trees and signboards not only created difficulty in accessing some areas but in some cases, they also fell on KE’s power lines causing disruption in supply to certain areas.

The KE spokesperson said that in a separate incident in North Karachi’s Industrial Area Sector 12B, one of the power utility’s transformers was damaged when a wireless tower of a private company fell over it. “Restoration work on the site is under way. Water-logging and slush in affected areas has also been a hindrance. However, rehabilitation work has been undertaken with great speed to restore power in the affected areas in the shortest possible time,” the spokesperson added.

Strong winds earlier in the day uprooted these trees and a telephone pole in North Nazimabad, making short work of two cars.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Strong winds earlier in the day uprooted these trees and a telephone pole in North Nazimabad, making short work of two cars.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

Weather forecast

The Met Department has forecast partly cloudy to cloudy weather with chances of rain and thundershowers for the city with maximum temperature expected to remain between 34 and 36 degrees Celsius on Wednesday.

An official of the Met Office said that North Karachi in the metropolis received the maximum amount of rain, where over 41mm of rainfall was recorded. Other areas of the city along with the rainfall they received were: Landhi 39mm; PAF Base Masroor 37mm; Nazimabad/Paposh Nagar 33.5mm; Gulshan-i-Hadeed 31mm; PAF Base Faisal 30mm; Safoora Goth 12mm; University Road 11mm; and the old city area 13mm.

He said the minimum temperature recorded in the city on Tuesday was 23.5 degrees Celsius and maximum temperature remained 34.5 degrees Celsius. Humidity — the amount of moisture in the air — was 81 per cent in the morning that dropped to 67pc in the evening.

He said some other towns in the province that received rains on Tuesday were Mirpurkhas (22mm), Mithi (13mm), Chhor (10mm), Hyderabad (9mm), Nagarparkar (6mm), Thatta (22mm), Sakrand (11 mm), and Tandojam (17mm).

He said that rains or thundershowers with gusty winds were expected in Mirpurkhas, Hyderabad, Thatta and Nawabshah on Wednesday as well.

KMC’s rain emergency centre

Meanwhile, Mayor Wasim Akhtar asked the authorities concerned to keep the rain emergency centre open round the clock. “All the concerned departments should be on maximum alert as the coming two days could bring heavy rainfall on city,” said the mayor while visiting the rain emergency centre of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation on Kashmir Road.

He said the drainage system should remain efficient during and after rains, which, otherwise could cripple routine life in the city. He asked the citizens to contact the centre for all sorts of help for the problems caused by rains.

Mr Akhtar also asked KE to ensure uninterrupted power supply. He directed the chairmen of the municipal corporations in the six districts to keep a vigilant eye on the post-rain scenario and an effective contingency plan should well be in hand.

In a separate directive to the KMC’s parks department, the mayor ordered the officials concerned to remove the fallen trees in various areas and drain water accumulated in low-lying areas and underpasses.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2017