Wednesday June 29, 2022

24 people perish as heavy rain paralyses Karachi

August 14, 2019

KARACHI: As many as 24 people were killed, including 10 due to electrocution and the remaining in other rain-related accidents, in Karachi during an unprecedented spell of heavy rain on Saturday and Sunday that played havoc with the lives of people of the city.

Even on Tuesday, most parts of the metropolis continued to confront urban flooding and large areas of the city remained without power since the rain started on Saturday. The failure of Karachi’s local bodies institutions besides KMC, to remove and dispose of the accumulated water and floating waste of the sacrificial animals a day after the rainfall stopped, turned many areas into giant cesspools till the filing of this report.

It was the second but so far the heaviest spell of monsoon rains in Karachi in the current season that started on Saturday but gained momentum on the night between Saturday and Sunday when continuous rain created urban flooding as rainwater flooded homes in low-lying areas of the city. The accumulation of waist-deep water in several localities including Yousuf Goth, several areas of Defence Housing Authority and other low-lying areas of Karachi prevented thousands of people from getting out of their homes to offer Eid-ul-Azha prayers, while also confronting difficulty in performing animal sacrifice. The situation worsened to such an extent that scared people started calling Azaans, (an emergency call for prayers) as vast areas of the city plunged into darkness multiplying their miseries.

“Karachi on an average received 158 millimeters of rain during this spell, from August 10 and 11, 2019. But the heaviest spell lasted 8-10 hours, playing havoc with the lives of people,” said Sardar Sarfraz, Chief Meteorological Officer (CMO) Sindh, while talking to The News on Tuesday. He said “some areas received over 150mm of rain in one night as urban flooding,” turned most parts of the country’s largest city into a large network of canals.

Army troops were summoned to different areas of the city to help the civil administration after the civic infrastructure collapsed despite presence of federal and provincial ministers in the city and in several areas. The army personnel rescued several people, including those trapped in the Malir and Lyari rivers. The troops also helped save key installations and shifted women and children to safer places from areas flooded due to heavy downpour.

According to Karachi Police, as many as 24 people were killed in Karachi in rain related incidents, including 10 due to electrocution and 14 in incidents of drowning and roof collapse. Besides 33 people, including women and children, were also injured in different incidents who are undergoing treatment at various hospitals. The Executive Director Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) Karachi, Dr. Seemin Jamali, said six people were brought dead to the health facility due to electrocution from Saturday to Monday, followed by three in Civil Hospital and one to the Abbassi Shaheed Hospital. The tragic electrocution of three young friends on an inundated road in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Karachi saddened people across Pakistan whose misery, while lying in a pool of water, was recorded on cell phones and widely circulated, becoming a strong statement of the poor performance of the city’s power utility, the K-Electric.

Facing widespread condemnation and criticism from the people of the city, Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar approached Karachi’s District South Police and negotiated with the police for six hours to get an FIR lodged against K-Electric on murder charges. The FIR was eventually filed on the complaint of father of one of the victims of electrocution as severe pressure mounted on the local, provincial and federal governments to initiate action against the power utility for its callousness resulting in large number of unnecessary deaths in rains.

A large number of city areas confronted days-long acute water shortages complicated due to absence of electricity at pumping stations. The hardship to acquire drinking water became more challenging due to holidays and rain-related clogging of streets and roads across the city.

The failure of the KWSB, KMC and other local bodies and departments under the mayor and LB minister to flush the cesspool across the large swathes of the city littered with the decaying and decomposing animal waste and blood and its smell further added to the plight of the citizens.

To add to the despair of the Karachiites, alarming outbreaks of diarrhea and gastroenteritis has taken toll in different areas of the city. Many victims especially children were rushed to public and private hospitals due to diarrhea and dysentery as a result of contaminated water supply during and after the rain, health officials said as the Director General Health Sindh Dr. Masood Solangi directed establishing special wards for the water-borne diseases.

Dozens of sacrificial animals were also killed due to electrocution and drowned as their majority were kept outside homes and at open places. People and officials said dozens of goats, cows and bulls and some camels were killed due to electrocution, washed away in torrents of water, collapsing roofs and walls and other similar incidents.

In accordance with past practices, what has now become a decade-long tradition, the K-Electric failed miserably to supply uninterrupted power supply during rains and vast areas were deprived of electricity from Saturday onwards turning the religious festival into added misery. Hundreds of thousands of people were without electricity for three days at a stretch and many parts have no power even at the time of filing of this report. Besides the common people, several key installations including the offices of Pakistan Meteorological Department, several pumping stations of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), police, hospitals and other places faced 24-48 hours long power breakdowns.

Millions of complaints were lodged with the K-Electric through conventional and unconventional means by the people from Gulshan-e-Hadeed to Ittehad Town and Keamari to Surjani Town during the last three days. The power utility came under widespread criticism for deaths of young men, and children due to electrocutions and even the local government, the Sindh government and federal ministers criticized the power utility, asking each other for action against the management and officials of the utility for the dozens of deaths.

Meanwhile, according to the power utility, K-Electric is also investigating all the electrocution incidents. As per the initial reports, majority of the incidents either occurred inside homes through broken wires and water pumps or due to non-KE infrastructure such as kundas and hanging lights. The KE is deeply saddened by all these incidents and sympathizes with the affected families.

“It is extremely unfair that some quarters are blaming one particular organization for these unfortunate incidents, which occurred during urban flooding in Karachi, and were the result of weak civic infrastructure”, KE said in a statement on Tuesday.

The power supply company said it suspended the electricity supply to flooded areas at the request of civic bodies as a safety measure. Accumulation of water around power installations in low-lying areas hampered restoration efforts and is also a severe public safety hazard. In spite of the challenges, over 1,700 out of more than 1,800 feeders are currently online. “K-Electric had requested civic bodies to take preventive measures before the recent rains to ensure water does not accumulate in Karachi to avoid any untoward incident. However, various areas of the city were submerged creating an urban flooding situation”, the statement said.

The Pakistan Army was responsive and helped clear standing water from the KDA grid, a strategic electricity installation. The commissioner Karachi and district administrations also remained in contact with KE to deal with any emergency. However, the mayor Karachi and the Karachi Municipal Corporation did not extend support in clearing out water near the power infrastructure.

Meanwhile. as the city is reeling in the aftermath of unusually heavy downpour, Pakistan Meteorological Department officials forecast another round of rain but this time is expected to range from light to moderate intensity in Karachi on coming Thursday and Friday (Aug 15-16).

The critical Korangi-EBM Causeway connecting the Baloch Colony with Korangi Industrial Area was washed away in torrents of water, trapping dozens of people who were timely saved by the army while deploying cranes and other equipment.