Karachi business grapples with the aftermath of flooding

Updated 29 Aug 2020

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After the deluge, a flooded supermarket opens for business on Friday.
After the deluge, a flooded supermarket opens for business on Friday.

KARACHI: As the water level receded, business and industry struggled to restore normalcy around the mega city. Fuel pumps ran dry, telecom towers fell out of service and many ATM machines were either not functioning or empty of cash.

Those few pumps where fuel was available were mobbed by motorbikes and cars as well as scores of people holding jerry cans to carry fuel for generators as the city-wide power outage extended beyond 24 hours.

People thronged to supermarkets and corner shops to replenish food stocks, only to find them shut or flooded, and in some cases, the large sections of the artificial ceilings had fallen in as rain water seeped through the roof.

“Fuel supplies at the terminals in Keamari are ample” an executive from a large oil marketing company told Dawn early on Friday. “But before we can start sending out tankers to replenish supplies at retail outlets, we have to test the fuel that is already there to determine whether or not it has been contaminated with flood water. If it has then the underground storage tank needs to first be emptied out before more fuel is poured into it.”

The process could take days but the executive told Dawn that fuel deliveries from the Keamari terminals to some outlets, where underground tanks were not contaminated, had begun by Friday evening and would continue overnight.

ATMs out of cash, fuel pumps dry, telecom service down

“The situation should substantially normalise by Saturday morning.”

The prolonged power outage also impacted many other services. Aisha Sarwari, spokesperson for Jazz told Dawn that “largely due to infrastructural challenges and power outages in Karachi, network disruptions are hard to contain, especially when the damage is this large-scale.”

She said knock on effects occur following prolonged power outages once the back up generators that power telecom towers start running out of fuel. Nobody from the telecom sector was willing to give an estimate for how long it will take to restore normal service, but most said it could take ‘a few working days’.

Many ATMs around the city were also not functional when people ventured out after the deluge. “ATMs work primarily on communication networks, availability of electricity and whether staff can reach the locations to replenish the cash” says Ali Habib, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at HBL.

He said his bank was able to ensure that “at least 55 per cent of our network across the city was functional” on Friday morning.

The inundation triggered the power outages and brought movement around the city to a halt, which in turn had knock on effects on communication, banking services and fuel supply across the city. It was late into the day on Friday when normalcy began to return to the life of the city as the weekend began.

Meanwhile, the city’s utility took to social media middle of the day on Friday to say that “close to 80 per cent feeders are powered up”.

“Many parts of Defence, Clifton, Bahadurabad continue to remain submerged and our substations are also badly affected in these areas due to waterlogging,” the statement said.

By Friday night, reports of power being restored were being received from a growing number of localities around the city.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2020