Coastal areas vulnerable as cyclone changes course

Published June 10, 2023
The Met Department advisory says coastal areas of Balochistan and Sindh are both at risk from the cyclone.— Courtesy Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre
The Met Department advisory says coastal areas of Balochistan and Sindh are both at risk from the cyclone.— Courtesy Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre

KARACHI: There is a potential threat of flooding in Pakistan’s coastal areas in the coming days after Biparjoy — a very severe cyclonic storm over the east-central Arabian Sea — changed its direction on the night between June 8 and June 9.

The storm is likely to keep moving in the north/northeastward direction during the next 36-48 hours, Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) officials said on Friday, adding that Biparjoy is likely to maintain its intensity in the coming days.

“The current environmental conditions, including the sea surface temperature of 30-32°C, low vertical wind shear and upper-level divergence, are still supporting the system to intensify further.

“Owing to shift in upper-level steering winds, the uncertainty in global models forecast of the system still persists, though, with some taking it to Oman-Pakistan Makran coast and others indicating towards Indian Gujarat-Pakistan Sindh coast,” Chief Meteorologist Dr S. Sarfaraz said.

Chief meteorologist sees Biparjoy making landfall on 15th; fishermen advised not to venture in the open sea from June 12

In both cases, he pointed out, Pakistan’s coast remains vulnerable.

“There seems to be two probabilities right now. The cyclonic storm may move in the north/northeastward or north/northwestward direction. The first scenario makes the coastal areas of Balochistan, including Pasni and Gwadar, vulnerable whereas the other makes Sindh’s coastal areas vulnerable. The system’s direction would be clearer in the next 36 to 48 hours,” he said, adding that it would likely have a landfall on June 15.

“There is a potential risk for flooding in the coastal areas. High winds pose a threat to weak structures,” he said.

In an alert released late on Friday night, the PMD stated that the system has further tracked northeastward during the past 12 hours.

“It now lies near Latitude 15.5°N & Longitude 66.3°E at a distance of about 1040km south of Karachi, 1020km south of Thatta and 1,110km southeast of Ormara. Maximum sustained surface winds are 120-130 Km/hour and gusts 150 Km/hour around the system centre,” it stated.

The department has advised fishermen not to venture in the open sea from June 12 onwards till the system is over as the Arabian Sea conditions may get very rough/high accompanied with high tides along the coast.

“With its probable north-northeast track, the rain-thunderstorm with some heavy falls and squally winds are expected in Sindh-Makran coast from 13 June night/14 June morning.

“Sea conditions are very high/phenomenal around the system centre with maximum wave height 25-28 feet. Squally (high intensity) winds may cause damage to loose & vulnerable structures,” the alert released by the department stated.

Stakeholders meet

In response to the PMD’s warning, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) held a meeting of relevant stakeholders and directed the authorities concerned and stakeholders, including deputy commissioners and chairmen of district disaster management authorities, to establish proactive coordination with the provincial emergency operation centre, identify high-risk areas and prepare evacuation plans.

“Conduct public awareness campaigns about the cyclone’s probable effects, evacuation methods, and safety precautions. Use all means of communication to reach the coastal populations.

“Ensure the safe evacuation of residents from vulnerable coastal locations by working with relevant authorities, such as law enforcement and arrangement of transport for evacuation.

Prepare Contingency plans that include the identification of safe areas, suitable equipment, and supplies such as food, water, medical aid, and sanitary facilities. Keep fishermen informed of the weather conditions and advise them not to venture into open sea until the situation improves,” says a PDMA letter.

Call for vigilance

Federal Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination Senator Sherry Rehman urged the provincial departments and the general public to exercise vigilance in light of the weather advisory issued by the PMD.

“The advisory forecasts the potential landfall of Cyclone Biparjoy on June 15th, with its current trajectory indicating the coastal regions of Sindh and Makran as the likely areas of impact,” she said.

Minister Rehman urged all relevant authorities, especially PDMA Sindh and Balochistan, to promptly assess their preparedness measures and raise awareness among the public. She emphasised the importance of staying updated with information provided by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) as well as constant monitoring of the situation by the National Emergencies Operations Centre at the NDMA.

The minister stressed the need for effective coordination and communication among all stakeholders to ensure a swift and comprehensive response to the evolving situation and need for preparedness and proactive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the affected communities.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2023

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