BADIN: “That one night was like a thousand nights for us,” recalled an elderly Abdul Wahab Mallah in Haji Hajjam Mallah village of union council Bhugra Memon in Badin taluka, which was the worst-affected area in the 1999 cyclone ‘2A’. The area is located close to a creek.

Wahab, a fisherman, was in prime of youth i.e. around 35 when he survived the cyclone along with other fishermen. The entire Badin district was worst-hit by the natural calamity.

Mallah and his family haven’t left their village as he believed the cyclone would pass off safely. “Seawater returned quickly, otherwise it would have hit Badin city,” he said while talking to Dawn on Wednesday.

The good thing is that village population this time is being shifted to safe places, where relief camps have been set up. In 1999, no one knew what had happened as none was informed about a tragedy going to strike them.

“But we are staying back here or would be in relief camp in the night; and returning to the village for food,” Mallah says. His community fellows agreed with him.

According to the army, Rangers and civil administrations, 80pc of the vulnerable population had already been shifted to safe places and the rest would be moved to relief camps by midnight Wednesday to complete the process.

Rains lash many areas

Throughout Wednesday, skies remained heavily overcast with intermittently spell of drizzle to bring a pleasant change in weather.

A thunderstorm coupled with intermittent light, moderate and heavy rainfall hit the entire Mirpurkhas district on Wednesday. Besides blowing away thatched houses in the rural areas of the district, strong winds also uprooted a large number of trees. The towns that received rains amid heavily overcast skies included Mirwah Gorchani, Digri, Jhuddo, Naokot, Kot Ghulam Muhammad, Khaan, Jhilori, Sindhri, Hingorno and Phuladyyoon.

In Badin district, a considerably big number of people have already been shifted to relief camps set up in the nearby schools of Bhugra Memon, Seerani villages etc.

Flows in drains normal

The Kadhan Pateji Outfall Drain (KPOD) which is part of the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) system, is for now having normal flows, irrigation officials citing their visit to the minus RD-11 revealed. The KPOD, whose banks had been washed away in the 1999 cyclone and part of it is still submerged under water, ends in Shah Samando creek. Its other branch, Dhoro Puran Outfall Drain (DPOD), outfalls Shakoor Lake. Both branches of LBOD bifurcate at RD-159. The LBOD system is having an invariably flow of around 3ft to 4.5ft as gauges are being observed by irrigation officials.

“Back in 1999, people had died like fish,” Wahab continued. He and his team had ventured into the creek for usual fishing to make both ends meet, and returned to the village on their own. “We had travelled hardly 25kms into the creek and stayed there for 24 hours before we returned to our village. “Either our sixth sense worked or Nature was kind to us that we returned before the cyclone made the landfall,” he said.

Wahab, now a frail man and carries a stick, felt that given the intensity of the 1999 cyclone, he found himself as a lucky survivor. “It was around waist-deep water around us everywhere,” he said.

Qamar Din Mallah, a resident of the same village, was around 25 when he had experienced the most destructive cyclone in 1999. “We were in the creek for eight days and I had felt that sea is behaving somewhat abnormally. The environment was suffocating,” said Qamar, now in his early 50s. He said none from his team died but he lost his motorboat to the cyclone. “Strong tides threw us near the bank of KPOD,” he said.

Life not disturbed by threat

Life looked slightly normal in Seerani, a small town located a few kilometres away from Bhugra Memon village. Shops were open and people were sipping tea at hotels. Rangers personnel along with police were, however, deployed there. People from different villages were being shifted to schools, which had been closed. Schoolteachers were, however, performing emergency duties.

Badin, a left bank district of lower Sindh region, is prone to cyclone and extreme weather events. Its residents have survived back to back disasters spelt by LBOD system in the past besides heavy rainfall and cyclones.

“Allah bachanay wala hey,” remarked Hameed Mallah when asked why he was still staying on in the village. God had saved us in 1999 and would save him this time again, he said confidently. “Where should we go from here? People tried to return to their village even after reaching relief camps,” he argued.

Cyclone’s movement

Prof Dr Altaf Siyal of the Sindh Agri-culture University (SAU), Tandojam, said that recent readings of Biparjoy cyclone’s models showed that it had slightly shifted northwestward on Wednesday evening which was a little deviation from its previous northeastward movement. Prof Siyal has been observing three different models for cyclone-related predictions according to which the eye of the storm has slightly shifted northwest which means that “it can be alarming for Sindh, including Karachi”.

“The cyclone can still make change again in a few hours,” he said. “If the cyclone takes the same route with this little change, then it is likely to make landfall between Keti Bundar and Shah Bundar, the coastal areas of Thatta and Sujawal districts, respectively.

Indus river now divides Thatta and Sujawal districts after Sujawal was carved out of Thatta district. With its previous northeast path, the cyclone could move towards Run of Kutch in India, he said.

Met advisory

Pakistan Meteorological Department’s advisory issued at 8.30pm on Wednesday also indicated the same thing shared by Prof Siyal. The advisory said that the “existing upper-level steering winds, very severe cyclonic storm (VSCS) Biparjoy is likely keep tracking northeastward and cross between Keti Bundar (Southeast Sindh) and Indian Gujarat coast on June 15 evening as a VSCS”.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2023

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