Gathering storm

Published June 11, 2023

ALTHOUGH experts had earlier said that the very severe storm Biparjoy was unlikely to significantly affect Pakistan, the weatherman now asserts that, as per fresh data, the country’s coastal areas may be vulnerable to the cyclone.

At the time of writing, Biparjoy was barrelling through the Arabian Sea, and was a little less than 1,000km from the Pakistan coast. According to weather models, there are two likely paths the storm can take, both with the potential to affect Pakistan: one projection sees Biparjoy headed for the Oman/Makran coast, while the other predicts the cyclone hitting the Gujarat/Sindh shore.

Biparjoy is likely to make landfall by June 15, which gives the authorities plenty of time to prepare, though the effects of the coming storm are likely to start impacting weather patterns in southern parts of the country from early next week. As per the Met Office, these include the potential for heavy rainfall, “flooding in the coastal areas” and high winds.

While panic should be avoided, the state needs to prepare for the consequences should the storm hit the coastline with intensity. The relevant government bodies have started issuing statements, while fishermen have been told to avoid heading out to sea. Moreover, in Karachi the authorities have begun to restrict public access to the beach.

However, as Met officials have pointed out, squally winds pose a danger to weak structures. In this regard, plenty of billboards and hoardings remain in Karachi, despite a court order calling for their removal. In the event that strong winds batter the coast, flying billboards are likely to prove deadly.

The state should take no chances where public safety is concerned and have contingency plans ready in case of flooding and strong winds. Also many parts of Karachi — particularly the Defence area as well as other localities — remain dug up for roadworks. It is hoped that the civic authorities have equipment ready to drain water from these under-construction thoroughfares.

Meanwhile, the infrastructure along the Makran coast in Balochistan is poor. Plans need to be in place to evacuate vulnerable populations to safer places till the storm subsides.

The government should launch a public-awareness campaign through mainstream and social media warning populations along the coast about potential hazards, and what to do in case of emergency situations if Biparjoy does crash into Pakistan’s coast.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2023

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