Sindh ‘prepared for the worst’ as cyclone hits today

Published June 15, 2023
KARACHI: Volunteer lifeguards plant red flags along the beach at Hawkesbay to mark areas that are dangerous for rescue workers, media teams and their colleagues, amid precautionary measures ahead of Cyclone Biparjoy, which is expected to make landfall sometime today. — APP
KARACHI: Volunteer lifeguards plant red flags along the beach at Hawkesbay to mark areas that are dangerous for rescue workers, media teams and their colleagues, amid precautionary measures ahead of Cyclone Biparjoy, which is expected to make landfall sometime today. — APP

• Biparjoy recurves north-eastwards, away from Karachi
• Sherry Rehman says ‘evolving’ storm expected to hit Keti Bandar around 11am
• Minister calls on citizens to refrain from ‘disaster tourism’, insists evacuations in coastal areas ‘not optional’
• ‘Plan B’ ready if more areas affected: NDMA chief
• Military says more than 82pc of vulnerable people shifted to safe locations

KARACHI: The country’s coastal regions were on high alert on Wednesday, with tens of thousands of people being evacuated to stave off the impact of the cyclone, which is expected to make landfall on Thursday (today).

Biparjoy — currently a “very severe cyclonic storm” — is inching closer to India and Pakistan, prompting authorities to take preventive measures to minimise the damage it may cause to life and property.

The Met department’s advisory released on Wednesday night showed that Biparjoy had moved north-eastwards during the past six hours.

Late on Wednesday night, the cyclone lay at about 310km south of Karachi, 300km south-southwest of Thatta and 240km south-southwest of Keti Bandar.

The cyclone is likely to reduce its strength after hitting the land, but the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has asked fishermen not to venture into the open sea until Saturday.

In a press conference in Islamabad, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said the cyclone’s distance from Karachi was increasing as it had veered eastwards, but at the same time warned that it was coming closer to the coastal areas.

The minister cautioned that both thunder and rainstorms were expected to occur, which could cause substantial damage. She urged people, especially in Karachi, to refrain from dabbling in “disaster tourism” and going to the beach to witness the storm and called on them to cooperate with authorities.

Driven by winds of around 100 to 120 kilometres per hour and a huge cloud mass spanning over 200 to 300km over the sea, Biparjoy was projected to hit land between Keti Bandar in Sindh and Indian Gujarat’s coast on Thursday evening, posing multiple threats to the coastal areas in both the countries, officials told Dawn. Keti Bandar, one of the most impoverished towns of Sindh, is likely to face the cyclone’s brunt and is officially stated to be completely evacuated.

Several low-lying settlements in Thatta and Sujawal, most of which were already evacuated, saw high-tide flooding. Rising seawater levels in other fishing villages, including those in Karachi’s Ibrahim Hyderi and Badin, panicked people. Still, many people are reluctant to leave their homes.

“Despite deteriorating weather, many residents of coastal villages, including Ahmed Raju, Golo Mandro, Dars Mandro and Seerani at Zero Point, the coastal area bordering India, are unwilling to leave their homes, citing lack of trust in the government’s capacity to provide them with basic facilities at relief camps,” a senior government doctor based in Badin city said, adding that law enforcement agencies had to evacuate people forcibly.

Last night, he said, dozens of people at a relief camp set up at an army public school in Badin protested over poor conditions at the site and blocked the road. Several fishermen were still at sea.

She also asked for the cyclone not to be linked with nature but with climate change as a result of human activity and emissions. “Pakistan has become a hotspot of climate change,” she said.

‘Hotspot of climate change’

Meanwhile, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said Karachi was not under immediate threat, but emergency measures were being taken to deal with accompanying winds and rain that are expected to batter the economic hub.

In a media talk alongside National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Inam Haider Malik, Ms Rehman said Biparjoy was following the path that had been predicted.

“It seems Biparjoy is going northeast, and it seems it will take a hard right even further to the east, which means it will go past the megacity of Karachi,” she said.

Noting that “some friends are saying its intensity has decreased”, she said that when it came to landmass, its effects were also maximised.

The minister asserted that the government had been taking steps to tackle the effects of the cyclone, adding that today was “a buffer day” to complete any remaining preparations.

She highlighted that 75 relief camps had been set up to accommodate those who were evacuated, and most of them were places with stable roofs, such as schools and colleges.

Meanwhile, the NDMA chairman said that in a scenario where more areas than expected were impacted by the storm and inundated, there would be a “second stage relocation”. He also said there was a risk of urban flooding in Karachi.

In a separate address on the floor of the National Assembly, Ms Rehman noted that Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority (DHA) had begun voluntary evacuations and advised citizens to avoid leaving their belongings outside without securing them.

“Especially those near Seaview, in DHA and Darakhshan, absolutely do not leave your pets, livestock and people outside. Tomorrow, you have to wait for landfall because the cyclonic winds can attain any velocity,” she said.

82pc vulnerable population evacuated

According to information shared by the Sindh Chief Minister House, 67,367 people have been evacuated from the three vulnerable districts of Thatta, Sujawal and Badin, where 39 relief camps have been set up.

In response to the looming cyclone threat, the army continued its rescue and relief operations, evacuating scores of people in the coastal areas.

“Over 82 per cent of the vulnerable population has been shifted to safe locations. Nine relief camps have been set up in Thatta and 14 in Sujawal and Badin. Troops are on high alert for the next 72 hours and the evacuation process will be completed tonight,” the army’s media wing said late on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) on the government’s directives has suspended gas supply from Wednesday to industrial units and their captive power units, the fertiliser sector and compressed natural gas stations to ensure maximum volume of gas supply to the power sectors during the cyclone’s forecast period.

“The utility company has asked the industrial sector to shut down their operations, thus enabling the SSGCL to divert the gas to the power sector to avoid power outages during the cyclone and stormy conditions. The company is trying to ensure natural gas and RLNG to the operational activities of K-Electric,” it said in a statement.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2023

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