GWADAR: A man looks for his family’s belongings in their flooded home, following heavy rain in the port city.—Dawn
GWADAR: A man looks for his family’s belongings in their flooded home, following heavy rain in the port city.—Dawn

• Rain emergency declared in Sindh, Friday to be half-day
• 100mm of rain expected in Karachi, temperature may drop to 13-15 degrees today
• Downpour may arrive after 2pm, likely to continue for 12 hours with frequent gaps

KARACHI / GWADAR: The fourth-time PPP government in Sindh, haunted by its past poor performance during rains, faces its first challenge today (Friday), with the Met Office predicting two days of moderate to heavy downpours in many parts of the province.

Meanwhile, the Balochistan government on Thursday declared Gwadar a calamity-hit area after heavy rains battered the district, suspending normal life and traffic.

The weather forecast for Sindh has kept the provincial administration on its toes, prompting it to announce a rain emergency in the province, declare Friday a half-day, and advise citizens against unnecessarily stepping out of their homes.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department repeated its forecast on Thursday, predicting “rain with winds and thunderstorms” in Karachi, Sukkur, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Larkana, Dadu, Shaheed Benazirabad, Hyderabad, Thatta, Badin, Khairpur and Mirpurkhas on Friday and possibly on Saturday.

A Met Office advisory said Karachi is likely to experience cloudy weather with intermittent thunderstorms and rain on Friday, with a few heavy falls that may generate urban flooding in some areas.

It said the temperature is likely to drop to 13-15 degrees Celsius on Friday and 10-12 degrees on Saturday in the city. Similar weather conditions are likely to prevail in other parts of the province under the influence of a westerly wave over Balochistan.

This weather forecast follows the recent devastation caused by similar weather conditions in Gwadar and other coastal areas of Balochistan.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, on his second day in office, summoned a meeting at Chief Minister House, where the officials from the city administration, relief organisations, disaster management bodies and civic institutions discussed the approaching challenge and devised a strategy.

“In view of the rain emergency in Karachi, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has declared Friday a half-day for all government and private offices. In addition, all local bodies, hospitals, water board, Karachi Electric (KE) and cantonments have been instructed to be prepared to handle any situation,” said a statement issued by Chief Minister House after the meeting.

The urgency of these preparations stems from the traumatic experiences of the most recent rains, which occurred just days before the Feb 8 elections and badly hit Karachi’s infrastructure,

100mm rain expected in Karachi

Karachi Mayor Barrister Murtaza Wahab, citing the Met Office, highlighted the potential for up to 100 millimetres of rain in the city.

“The information suggests that the downpour may hit Karachi after 2pm and continue for 12 hours with frequent gaps,” Mr Wahab told Dawn. “In case of heavy rain, we may receive 30mm to 32mm of rain in one go. So, we are doing our best and making all precautionary measures utilising all available resources.”

At the CM House meeting, Chief Minister Shah directed all the town chairpersons to be alert in their areas and look after their stormwater and sewerage systems. He directed Chief Secretary Dr Fakhre Alam to coordinate police support for district administrations in case of heavy rain.

Among directives to officials, there was also a suggestion for the people. “The Pakistan Meteorological Department has issued a forecast stating that there will be rain and thunderstorms from the night of Feb 29, 2024, until the morning of March 2, 2024. This rainfall could be heavy, so residents are advised to prepare themselves accordingly,” the CM House statement said.

Later in the evening, the provincial government announced setting up a rain emergency cell at Chief Minister House for “better coordination and effective execution of plan”.

“The cell would coordinate with administrations of the affected districts and report to the chief minister every few hours,” the CM House said in a statement.

Additionally, the education department has announced closures for evening shifts in schools, colleges, and universities across Sindh on Friday.

Besides, the University of Karachi rescheduled its exams from March 1 to March 7, and Commissioner Karachi postponed the fifth city marathon in DHA Phase VIII and announced March 8 as the new date.

The crisis-handling moves from the government, officials said, came with “unusual weather conditions.” They were “surprised” that such an “intense and strong” rain system was never witnessed before in February and March.

Unusual weather

Dr Sardar Sarfaraz, chief meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department, was cautious about attributing this unusual weather pattern to climate change, but acknowledged its rarity and potential impact.

Linking the current phenomenon to climate change “needs to be proven through data, post-event study and scientific evidence, which would take time”, he said.

“But, definitely, it’s unusual. We have never witnessed such a massive and intense impact of westerly waves in February or March before like we are recording in Gwadar and other Balochistan towns. After weakening in Balochistan, the same system is moving to Karachi and other parts of Sindh,” he said.

Dr Sarfaraz said the fresh rain system was likely to stay for 12 to 18 hours in Karachi and expected to fizzle out from Sindh by Saturday evening. However, he warned, it would cause a brief spell of cold waves for a few days and might bring the night temperature down to single digits in Karachi.

Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has directed the Sindh government to play a full and effective role in preparation for possible rains in the province.

According to a press release issued by the media cell at Bilawal House on Thursday, the PPP chairman instructed all members of the Sindh Assembly and elected representatives of his party to play an active role in addressing the rain emergency.

Gwadar declared calamity-hit

Caretaker Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai, who announced the government’s decision to declare Gwadar a calamity-hit area, said heavy rains with hailstorms continued to lash the district.

Hundreds of people affected by rains have protested in Gwadar against the provincial administration, alleging that it was not doing enough to shift citizens to safe areas. The heavy downpour has practically left many people homeless in the affected areas, as their houses either collapsed or inundated.

In Gwadar city, protesters blocked Marine Drive and other roads. Haq Do Tehreek leaders Maulana Hidayatur Rehman Baloch and Hussain Wadila reached the site and joined the protesters.

“We have no other option but to dig roads to dewater the area. Continuous rains are creating hurdles in relief operations in Gwadar and other rain-affected areas,” a senior official of the Gwadar district administration told Dawn by phone, adding that the roads and streets of Gwadar were flooded with rainwater.

Faiza Ilyas in Karachi and Saleem Shahid in Quetta also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024



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