Anxiety grips coastal areas in Sindh, Balochistan amid new cyclone threat

Published September 30, 2021
FISHING boats are docked at the Karachi harbour on Wednesday.—Online
FISHING boats are docked at the Karachi harbour on Wednesday.—Online

KARACHI: The weather scenario for both Sindh and Balochistan remains critical as remnants of Cyclone Gulab currently existing in the form of a well-marked low pressure area over Indian Gujarat head towards the Arabian Sea where they might intensify and turn into Cyclone Shaheen by Friday, a meteorological department official stated on Wednesday.

The system is likely to emerge in the northeast Arabian Sea by Thursday morning and strengthen into a depression.

“Even if it doesn’t intensify after getting favourable conditions in the Arabian Sea and limits itself to a ‘depression’, it can induce a lot of rain along with high winds up to 40 to 50 nautical miles in our region and that could be very damaging,” said Sardar Sarfaraz representing the Met department.

Mr Sarfarz explained that the development of a cyclone took place in four stages — the system first developed into a low pressure area, then a well-marked low pressure area followed by depression and deep depression before taking the form of a full cyclone.

Tracing cyclones’ history in Pakistan, he said the last one which directly hit Pakistan’s coast came in 2007 whereas the 2010 cyclone re-curved towards Gwadar after hitting Oman.

According to the Met office, developing weather system will cause torrential rains and urban flooding

“Over the years, many cyclones came but they didn’t impact us directly. They pose many threats if you have weak urban infrastructure and preparedness but the killing factor in a cyclone is the combined effect of a storm surge with high tide as happened in 1999 when large coastal areas of Thatta and Badin were inundated, causing over 700 deaths,” he said.

According to the Met department’s advisory, the developing weather system is likely to cause torrential rains across Sindh and Balochistan with several coastal districts facing the threat of flooding.

“Widespread rain-wind-thunderstorms with scattered heavy/very heavy falls, extremely heavy at times, accompanied with squally winds are likely in Karachi, Hyderabad, Thatta, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Thaparkar, Umerkot, Sanghar, Shaheed Benazirabad, Noshero Feroz, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allayar, Dadu, Jamshoro, Sukkur, Larkana, Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Ghotki districts from Sep 30 to Oct 3.

“Widespread rain-wind-thunderstorms with scattered heavy/very heavy falls, extremely heavy at times, are likely in Gwadar, Lasbela, Awaran, Kech, Khuzdar, Kalat and Panjgur districts of Balochistan from Sep 30 (Thursday) till Oct 3 (Sunday).”

The districts facing threat of urban flooding are: Karachi, Badin, Thatta, Hyderabad, Dadu, Mirpurkhas, Shaeed Benazirabad, Lasbela, Sonmiani, Ormara, Pasni, Gwadar, Turbat and Jiwani.

“Windstorm may cause damage to vulnerable structures. Sea conditions would remain rough/very rough with high surge at times till Oct 3 (Sunday). Fishermen are advised not to venture in the sea from Sept 30 to October 3,” it says.

Need to activate civic bodies

Dr Noman Ahmed, seasoned architect and urban planner, called for preparedness in view of urban flooding threat and inundation of coastal areas.

“There is an immediate need to activate civic bodies for rescue operations and disaster management. Once this impending situation is over, the government should put its act together to find a long-term solution to urban flooding that the city frequently faces,” he said.

According to Dr Ahmed, Karachi’s flooding is mainly connected to encroachment of its storm water drains. “We have also seen that rainwater’s drainage has completely been ignored in development works as well as in roads’ carpeting and up-gradation that have been carried out in the city in recent years.”

On the government side, director general Syed Salman Shah of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) explained that vulnerable populations and areas had been identified and a plan of action was ready.

“We are constantly in contact with the Met department and will take action in view of Thursday’s situation. Each district has been provided with two additional suction pumps while big drains in the city have been cleared,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2021

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