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April 16, 2019

Six dead, over 150 injured as dust storm wreaks havoc across Karachi

Business

April 16, 2019

An unexpectedly strong and prolonged dust storm, which started late on Sunday night and resumed on Monday morning, wreaked havoc in different areas of Karachi.

At least six people, including two minor girls, were killed and over 150 others were injured, some of them critically, in different mishaps, including roof collapses, falling of trees, road accidents and other incidents, according to the authorities.

Dozens of trees were uprooted and electricity wires were broken, causing night-long power outages in many parts of the city, while scores of motorcyclists slipped on roads and cars were damaged as electricity poles and other objects struck them during the storm.

Many localities plunged into darkness due to damage to the electricity supply system following the severe storm, as electricity wires were broken in many areas and high transmission lines supplying power to the city were also damaged due to strong winds.

Many parts of the city remained without electricity throughout Sunday night, and even after being restored later, the power was disrupted again due to another episode of a strong storm that started on Monday morning.

Misery

The Pakistan Meteorological Department had forecast light to moderate rain in Karachi from Monday evening until Tuesday with dust and wind storm under the influence of a westerly system that originated in the Persian Gulf, battered different cities of Iran and caused heavy rains in different parts of Balochistan.

According to the prediction of the Met Office, Karachi was to receive rain, but instead of that, it had to deal with dust, strong winds and a lot of misery.

“It was a rare and unexpected storm with wind speed reaching up to 32.5 knots, or 65 kilometres per hour,” said Karachi Met Office chief Sardar Sarfaraz. “We have now seen such wind and dust storms so late in the year and reaching as far as Karachi.”

Met officials said they had not seen such a rapidly changing weather system in the past many years, as it moved much rapidly against their predictions, resulting in a prolonged and strong dust storm with strong winds.

They said that it also caused unprecedented damage to properties and human lives in the city, and moved away without causing any significant rain, as some areas received untraceable amount of drizzle.

“There is as such no chance of rain in Karachi between tonight [Monday night] and Tuesday night. The cloud mass has shifted away from Karachi and we are expecting clear weather in the city on Tuesday [today],” said Sarfaraz, adding that winds gusting at 15 to 18 knots may continue until the morning.

Accidents

The storm came as a surprise for majority of the people of Karachi on Sunday night, when the entire city was engulfed by dust with strong winds, reducing the visibility to a few hundred metres on the roads.

The strong winds also caused motorcyclists to crash as well as cars to hit one another or the footpaths as drivers lost control of their vehicles.

As the storm gained strength, ambulances started shifting the injured to different hospitals after roads accidents, falling of trees, electricity poles and wires, roof collapses and other incidents.

“We received two dead bodies — one of a teenager, Kashif, from Cattle Colony and another of 13-year-old Insha from Hijrat Colony — while six-year-old Mehak Gulzar died during treatment,” said Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali.

She said they also received 65 injured people, most of them motorcyclists, children and passersby who were injured due to road traffic accidents, caving in of roofs and falling of trees and poles during the storm.

“Majority of the injured were discharged immediately after first aid, but a few of them are still being treated at the hospital due to severe head injuries.”

Jamshed Quarters police said that a homeless man died late on Sunday night near Peoples Chowrangi when a tree fell on top of him, adding that the man was sleeping beneath a tree when it fell on top of him during the storm.

Civil Hospital Karachi Medical Superintendent Dr Khadim Hussain said their emergency and trauma centre received 39 people who had sustained injuries in storm-related mishaps, adding that majority of the injured were discharged while some of the serious patients were still undergoing medical treatment.

Indus Hospital Network CEO Dr Abdul Bari said that a 65-year-old man identified as Iqbal Ahmed was brought dead on Sunday night while eight patients were also received who had sustained injuries during the storm.

Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Senior Director Health and Medical Dr Birbal Genani said the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital received the body of a minor girl, identified as Tanzeela, from the Gulbahar area, while over 25 people were treated for different accidents.

Health department officials said that several patients were also taken to different private hospitals and clinics where they were treated for head injuries, broken bones and other wounds, adding that they had received no death reports from any of the private hospitals.

Officials of the Aga Khan University Hospital as well as of the Liaquat National Hospital denied any death at their facilities of the patients brought to them for storm-related accidents.

Electricity

The K-Electric claimed in a statement that power supply across the city remained at routine levels despite gusting winds and a severe dust storm that had hit the metropolis.

KE said that despite the intensity of the storm, their rapid response teams maintained strict vigilance as the city experienced strong winds with light rain in various parts of the city on Sunday night and in the early hours of Monday. The overall power infrastructure remained intact during the inclement weather, they said.

“During the windstorm, a few localised faults emerged in some parts of Malir, Korangi, Shah Faisal, a few blocks in Gulistan-e-Jauhar and Gulshan-e- Iqbal, which were swiftly attended and rectified by KE teams,” said a KE spokesman.

“Power supply to strategic installations, including key hospitals, the Karachi Water & Sewerage Board’s pumping stations, and airport remained uninterrupted during this period. Obstructions to electricity infrastructure caused by trees uprooted by strong winds were also removed by on-ground teams. We urge the public to stay away from broken wires, refrain from taking shelter under transformers or standing near electricity poles during rainy and windy weather to avoid accidents.”

The power utility said they maintain close coordination with the National Disaster Management Authority, the Met department and the city administration to extend effective support. They also urged the public to avoid using illegal means to obtain electricity.

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