The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) advised authorities in Sindh and Balochistan on Saturday to remain alert as a “very severe” cyclonic storm, Biparjoy, over the Arabian Sea was maintaining its intensity and lay 910 kilometres south of Karachi.
The cyclone — initially reported to pose no danger to Pakistan’s coastal areas — a day earlier changed its course and began moving towards the coastal areas. As of June 9, it was a little over 1,100km away. Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman had advised the provincial disaster management authorities Sindh and Balochistan to “take stock of preparations and ensure public safety for communities in coastal areas”.
Subsequently, the provincial disaster management authorities (PDMAs) of Sindh and Balochistan were put on alert and fishermen had also been advised to not venture into the sea.
In a notification issued today, the Met department said the system’s location was “further tracked north-northeastward during past 12 hours and now lies near Latitude 16.7°N & Longitude 66.4°E”.
Listing the distances from Pakistan’s coastal cities, the PMD said the storm lay at a distance of “about 910km south of Karachi, 890km south of Thatta and 990km southeast of Ormara”.
It further said, “The favourable environmental conditions (sea surface temperature of 30-32°C, low vertical wind shear and upper-level divergence) are in support to intensify the system further.”
Maximum sustained surface winds were 120-130km/hour while gusts of 150km/hour were around the system centre, the department said.
The Met department also advised fishermen to not venture into the open sea from June 11 onwards till the system was over as the sea conditions “may get very rough/high, accompanied with high tides along [the] coast”.
The PMD noted there was an uncertainty in the “global models’ final track forecast” of the cyclone, with some taking it to the Makran-North Oman coast and others indicating it towards the Indian Gujarat-Sindh coast.
“Given the said uncertainty, the system is predicted to keep tracking further north/northeastward during next 18-24 hours and then slightly recurve to North-northwest,” it said.
Detailing the possible impacts of the cyclone, the department warned that if the system took its probable north-northeast track, a “rain-thunderstorm with some heavy falls and squally winds” could be expected in the Sindh-Makran coast from June 13 evening/night onwards.
It further highlighted, “Squally (high-intensity) winds may cause damage to loose and vulnerable structures.”
The PMD also noted that the sea conditions were “very high/phenomenal around the system canter with maximum wave height 25-28 feet”. It said its cyclone warning centre in Karachi was monitoring the system and will issue updates accordingly
The National Disaster Management Authority shared a possible “development path” for the cyclone, which was predicted this morning. It added, “It is an evolving situation and impact will only be certain with further development of [the system].”
In a video, it said it has directed the relevant authorities to remain alert and take necessary precautions.
In a tweet, Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority cited the PMD’s warning about the cyclone hitting the city’s coastal areas between June 13 and 16.
Hence, it advised its residents to stay alert, take precautions and stay indoors during the said days.
Ban imposed on coastal activities
Meanwhile, in a notification dated June 9, authorities in Karachi banned going into the “open sea for sailing, fishing, swimming or bathing within the territorial limits of Karachi Division” from June 11 onwards.
The ban has been imposed under Section 144 (power to issue order absolute at once in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Issued by Karachi Commissioner Muhammad Iqbal Memon, the notification said: “There is apprehension of loss of lives of fishermen who are in the sea or may have planned for navigation into the sea and also the people who tend to gather on various beaches for recreational purpose.”
It added it was necessary to take immediate measures to “avoid any untoward incident of shipwreck or drowning”.
In case of non-compliance with the ban, the government warned to book violators under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
India puts coastal states on alert
India’s western states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and other coastal regions are also on alert after meteorologists warned that the cyclonic storm would intensify over the next 24 hours.
Authorities have told fishing communities to halt operations for the next five days in the eastern and central Arabian sea, and along the Indian Saurastra and Kutch region, ahead of Cyclone Biparjoy.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), which categorised Biparjoy as a “very severe storm”, said at 8:30am on Saturday the weather system was centred about 620km west-southwest off the financial capital Mumbai.
“It is very likely to intensify further and move north-northeast wards gradually during the next 24 hours,” the IMD said in a statement.
It warned of heavy rainfall at isolated places in the state of Kerala and the coastal Karnataka region in the next three days.
The IMD had expected monsoon rains to arrive over the southernmost state of Kerala on June 4, but the formation of Biparjoy has delayed that.
In Gujarat, the 13 coastal districts of South Gujarat, Saurashtra peninsula and Kutch have been put on alert.
“We are fully prepared to deal with any situation,” Kamal Dayani, additional chief secretary in the state revenue department, told Reuters.
Teams from the National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force have been deployed in the districts likely to be affected by the storm.
Unstable structures, such as hoardings, have been removed and the electricity department is on standby for power supply disruptions.