(CLOCKWISE from top) People wade through rainwater accumulated on an arterial road in Karachi. A dumper truck carrying electricity workers stuck in a residential area. A Pakistan Army relief team rescuing a family during flood relief operations in Mehar Ali Shah Colony in Hyderabad. — White Star/ APP
(CLOCKWISE from top) People wade through rainwater accumulated on an arterial road in Karachi. A dumper truck carrying electricity workers stuck in a residential area. A Pakistan Army relief team rescuing a family during flood relief operations in Mehar Ali Shah Colony in Hyderabad. — White Star/ APP

• City receives heaviest rainfall in single day in 53 years
• 19 people killed in rain-related incidents
• All key roads flooded, underpasses and streets submerged and life paralysed
• K-Electric forced to suspend power to over 900 feeders
• PM orders immediate relief, rescue operation, assures CM Murad of help from Centre
• Sindh government declares public holiday today
• Army sets up flood emergency control centre in Karachi
• Guddu, Sukkur barrages in low flood

KARACHI/HYDERABAD: The fresh spell of monsoon rains played havoc with Karachi’s infrastructure on Thursday, killed at least 19 people, flooded all key roads, submerged underpasses and streets and paralysed all segments of life, forcing the Sindh government to invite intervention of Prime Minister Imran Khan who ordered immediate rescue operations for thousands of affected people.

The rain started in the first half of the day continued for more than three hours in most parts of the city and took a brief break before it returned an hour before the sunset. The traffic system collapsed, the drainage infrastructure and power supply lines severed due to heavy rains.

At least 19 people were killed in rain-related incidents, including electrocution, drowning and collapse of concrete infrastructures. With fresh casualties, the death toll in the three-day rain rose to 30.

According to Rangers and SSP East, two women and four children died when a wall collapsed at Saima Mall, near Millennium, in Gulistan-I-Jauhar on Thursday night.

The key city links were flooded and major thoroughfares submerged, severing the city’s transportation system and leaving people stranded on roads.

K-Electric was forced to suspend power to over 900 feeders, while several power installations, including substations, grid stations and power plants, were also impacted by the rising water levels.

A KE spokesman said the power utility remained in close coordination with the city authorities to ensure swift drainage in Saddar, KDA Scheme 33, Jauhar, Surjani, Bin Qasim, Gulshan and other locations as this was a prerequisite for safe restoration of power supply. He said KE’s KDA grid station, a key transmission site interconnecting with the national grid, also experienced flooding from the overflowing Lath dam.

The spokesman said that to facilitate customers whose bill due dates were falling between Aug 25 and 28, KE has extended due dates till Aug 31, 2020, without any late payment surcharge.

The Met predicted that the trend would continue, warning that it could maintain the same intensity for a day or two. “The recent model shows that the system of low pressure is persisting and will cause rain for another day or two. The low pressure system is over southern Sindh adjoining northeast of Arabian Sea,” said Sardar Sarfaraz of the Met office in Karachi which received up to 135 millimetres of rain by 5pm.

He said that 223.5mm rain at Faisal Base broke the previous 12-hour rain record of 211. 3mm in July 1967.

Hundreds of houses situated along the main Lyari and Malir rivers were washed away, forcing the residents to leave their belongings and houses for safer places. The situation which emerged as a rain emergency for the local bodies and organisations turned into disaster within 48 hours.

“Heavy downpour has caused a disastrous situation,” Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said in a statement. “Due to overflowing of water in Malir and Sukkun Nadi, residents are stranded. I have directed authorities to take measures to rescue them. The schools in the area are vacated so that stranded residents could be housed in the buildings. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority has been directed to provide food, water and other essential items,” he said.

The chief minister announced that there would be public holiday of all provincial government, semi-government, autonomous and private institutions in the province on Friday (today). However, he said all essential services and civic institutions would remain open.

The situation also prompted telephonic contact between Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and PM Khan who discussed the situation emerging after the rains and reviewed relief measures.

In a tweet, the Sindh governor said he had briefed the prime minister on the situation in Karachi. “The PM is monitoring the situation and assured to take any action required,” the governor tweeted.

Federal Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said in a tweet that the prime minister had spoken to the Sindh chief minister and assured the latter of all-out assistant and help from the Centre in providing relief to the people of the province badly affected by the torrential rains and flash floods.

The prime minister tweeted: “My govt is fully cognizant of the suffering of our people in the wake of the heavy rains, especially the people of Karachi. I am personally monitoring the relief & rescue operations & am in constant contact with Chairman NDMA & Governor Sindh for regular updates.

“Have directed Chairman NDMA to immediately not only rescue stranded ppl, but also provide emergency medical assistance, food & shelter to all those in need. I have also asked NDMA Chairman to ensure restoration of utilities on an emergency basis.

“We will be announcing a plan for a permanent solution to the problems caused by floods by cleaning of nullahs, fixing of the sewage system & resolving the huge challenge of water supply to the ppl of Karachi. We will not abandon the people of Karachi in their time of crisis.”

The Pakistan Army, which was already in the city and other parts of the province, further enhanced its operation and established a flood emergency control centre in Karachi for assisting flood victims.

“Medical camp established at Distt Centre Gulberg, Liaqatabad and New Karachi for providing necessary medical care. Relief and rescue operations continue in flood-hit areas of Karachi and Hyderabad,” an ISPR statement said.

“Dewatering of more than 36 sites in Karachi has been completed. Cooked meals of over 10,000 people were distributed among flood victims in various areas. Enhancement of bund along M9 near Northern Bypass to avoid flooding of M9 was completed by army engineers. Pakistan Army engineers placed 3 plant dets along with dewatering pumps to KE Grid Sta, Saadi Town and Malir Cantt. Army engineers also constructed bund at these locations to save them from water flow. Army troops filled breach of Malir Nadi near Quaidabad. Pakistan Army engineer boats are busy in shifting people to safer places,” said the statement.

Guddu, Sukkur barrages in low flood Both Guddu and Sukkur barrages remained in low floods for the last 24 hours as rain- and lightning-related incidents claimed the lives of nine people, including a girl, across Sindh. Irrigation authorities struggle to plug a 100-foot breach in spinal drain of Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) in the Pangrio area of Badin district.

Several villages were inundated due to overtopping of saline water drains in lower Sindh. Damages to cotton crop were reported from Khairpur district.

The civil administration and irrigation department have been alerted to safeguard Manchhar lake which is getting continuous flows from Nai Gaj that has received another peak of hill torrents through its natural route. The lake attained 116.4RL level on Thursday evening against its maximum level of 120RL, according to senior irrigation officer Zahid Sheikh.

According to reports, monsoon rains hit several districts of Sindh once against. In Khairpur district, five of the six talukas were hit. Lighting claimed three lives in Qambar-Shahdadkot district, while one person each died in Garhi Khairu (Jacobabad), Badin, Hyderabad, Shikarpur and Thatta districts either due to lighting or flood-related incidents.

In Sukkur, rain continued for around 15 minutes on Thursday, causing accumulation of rainwater in low-lying areas. Heavy rains were also reported in Kandhkot and Mirpurkhas. Tharparkar, an arid region, has received 237mm of rainfall since Aug 23, according to Karachi Met office.

Guddu barrage, according to an irrigation official, attained the low-level flood on Aug 26 and Sukkur barrage at 6am on Aug 27. Sindh Irrigation Secretary Rafiq Buriro told Dawn that the irrigation department was expecting another 300,000 to 400,000 cusecs to reach Guddu barrage over the next one week.

In Hyderabad, one person died due to electrocution. It rained for 15 minutes with moderate intensity. The civil administration and the army are struggling to drain out rainwater from Mehar Ali Shah colony, Unit-2 Latifabad and other areas which were badly hit after Aug 24-25 rainfall.

The city recieved the heaviest rainfall in a single day in 53 years as Faisal Base station of the Met office received 223.5mm downpour by Thursday evening, breaking the previous record of 211.3mm reported in July 1967 at the same station.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2020

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