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Army called out as Karachi rain death toll rises to 26

The city administration had to call the army to rescue people marooned in the city's low-lying outskirts of Surjani Town, Gadap and North Karachi and for saving a major grid station as the Super Highway connecting the city to the upcountry was threatened by hill torrents.

By Faraz Khan & M. Waqar Bhatti & Oonib Azam
July 31, 2019

KARACHI: Life in Karachi remained paralysed for the second consecutive day on Tuesday in the aftermath of light-to-moderate rainfall with 12 more deaths besides massive suspension of water and power supplies across the metropolitan city.

 The city administration had to call the army to rescue people marooned in the city's low-lying outskirts of Surjani Town, Gadap and North Karachi and for saving a major grid station as the Super Highway connecting the city to the upcountry was threatened by hill torrents.

“Different areas of Karachi continued to receive light to moderate showers from Tuesday morning till afternoon under the influence of a monsoon system that has weakened drastically and would be cleared tonight,” Sardar Sarfraz, chief meteorological officer of Sindh, said while talking to The News. “The Saddar area received the heaviest rain during the two days where 149 millimeters of rain was recorded since Monday morning.” The met office said except for some occasional showers on late Tuesday night or during early Wednesday morning, there were no more chances of rain in the city on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to two days of rainfall to 26. Another 11 people, including children, were injured as roofs and walls of their houses collapsed.

Furthermore, a massive water and power crisis hit the city as most of the areas remained without electricity for 20 to 30 hours. The electricity crisis suspended water supply to a large number of areas of Karachi. The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority took serious notice of reports of the massive power breakdown in Karachi, the K-Electric’s failure to respond to citizens’ complaints, and the electrocution incidents, and sought an explanation from the K-Electric.

But the K-Electric insisted that the power supply situation was under control. “Two days of rainfall put a strain on the system but upgrades across the entire system have allowed response to queries with greater efficiency to address the outages."

After it rained heavily, the rainwater gushed out of the Thaddo Dam in Gadap Town, overflowing several natural storm water drains and other small dams in Gadap, including Luth and Veeru dams. The water stored in the Lath Dam, situated on the city's suburbs, started overflowing, flooding three goths in the Gadap Town. The raging water suspended traffic movement over a 4-km section of the M9 Motorway (Super Highway) connecting Karachi to Hyderabad and upcountry.

Meanwhile, the Motorway Police in a press statement also forbade citizens from using the motorway unnecessarily as an intense wave of water was passing through it. “Traffic from the Northern Bypass towards the Karachi Toll Plaza is disrupted,” the statement added. Several small settlements, villages in Taiser Town, Malir and Lyari were inundated, including KDA Scheme 33’s Saadi Garden and Saadi Town situated near the Karachi-Hyderabad motorway. A contingent of army rescued the people stranded on the Super Highway by boats. The floodwater had entered Shahbaz Goth where people were waiting for help at the time of the story being filed. The water was also heading towards the Saadi Town. The water also entered the K-Electric’s 220kV KDA Grid station at Gulzar-e-Hijri Scheme 33, suspending supply to parts of Sohrab Goth, Abul Hassan Isphahani Road, Super Highway, KWSB’s NEK Pumping station among few others. The K-Electric warned of power supply suspension to wider areas of Districts Central and East if the water level further rises. Due to prolonged power breakdowns at the pumping stations of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, most of the city areas remained without water.

The failure of the city’s local government and KMC under the mayor to clear the major drains of the city ahead of the rains caused urban flooding across Karachi. The tiff over issue of denial of funds and lack of authority by the mayor pitted the city to the worst urban flooding and that too after light to moderate rainfall. The situation was the worst in Surjani Town and Khuda Ki Basti, where streets were not only flooded but the rainwater entered the houses. Knee-deep water at the main Power House Chowrangi blocked the road for traffic. “We don’t know what authorities do with these rain drains every year. They always fail to drain out the water from the locality,” complained a resident of the Haroon Royal Apartments near the Power House Chowrangi, Owais Muhammad.

In District West, hill torrents from the Manghopir hills inundated the entire Khuda Ki Basti from where few residents were evacuated. Residents of the area pooled in money and drained out the water through machinery themselves, as they had no hope from the authorities. “Our children fall in gutters and rain drains but the city administration does not pay any heed,” said young resident, Ali. “This time we didn’t wait for the authorities, we collected money, brought pumps and drained out the water.”

The old city area, Garden, Kharadar and streets leading to the Karachi Zoological Garden in district East were all flooded with rainwater, as the local government failed to deploy any pumps for drainage. Roads in front of the Wazir Mansion, the birthplace museum of Quaid-e-Azam, in Kharadar, were all submerged in rainwater.

Due to the construction of three flyovers at District Central's Sher Shah Suri Road, the Sakhi Hassan Chowrangi, the Five Star Chowrangi and the KDA Chowrangi remained inundated on the second day of the rain, as authorities completely failed to drain water. “

The solid waste swept along the rainwater and flooded the entire Sakhi Hassan Graveyard. The trash and garbage was pooling alongside several graves, with no one to turn to for help. There wasn’t any drainage at Nipa Chowrangi, which was also flooded with knee-deep water. A huge crater emerged on a road leading to Sharae Faisal from Tariq Road shutting it down for traffic.

Unable to manage the situation, Mayor Akhtar wrote to the federal minister for maritime affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, for his support. He also appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan for help, saying since people of Karachi are facing a hard time and the Sindh government has failed owing to its lack of interest, the federal government should help the citizens. He feared that if it rained more, many localities in the city would be completely inundated. He complained that the Sindh government did not give a single vehicle to the KMC despite persistent rains in Karachi.

Talking to media at the Liaquatabad Underpass, he said the city was inundated with rainwater after 40 hours of continuous rain due to blocked sewerage lines. Responding to mayor’s letter, Zaidi in a tweet said that he also discussed the matter with PM Imran Khan in detail. “The federal govt through the maritime ministry will do all it can to address the emergency in Karachi,” he said.