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June 25, 2023

Earlier this month, Bannu was hit twice by powerful storms

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n June 10 and June 18, heavy downpours, strong winds and thunderstorms in the Bannu division killed at least 36 people. 224 citizens were injured in rain-related incidents.

On June 10, winds became gusty and the area received torrential rainfall which led to death and destruction in the region. According to eyewitnesses, the thundershower soon became a thunderstorm and heavy rain pummeled several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Other than the loss of human lives, mostly in Bannu area and damage to property, the thunderstorm also uprooted many trees. As strong winds swept across the area, boundary walls of many structures collapsed and roofs caved in.

Bannu City, the capital of the division, was inundated. The roads and streets of the city got flooded and rescuers faced difficulties in assisting people. Attempts to rush the injured people from across the division to the main hospital in Bannu City were hindered by urban flooding.

On June 10, Sajjad Hussain Khan, a resident of Bannu and his two children Mustafa, aged five and Taqwa, aged seven, went to the graveyard to say a prayer for a relative who had recently passed away. Khan said that the storm hit on their way back and claimed the lives of both children.

“First, it appeared as if there was a storm brewing. Then it hit. There were strong winds accompanied by heavy rainfall,” said Batool Sikandri, a 29-year-old electrical engineer from Bannu. “Never before in my life have I witnessed such destruction,” she told The News on Sunday. “The winds were fierce. A roof collapsed in our neighbourhood, killing five people,” she recalled.

The Bannu division consists of three districts; Bannu, Lakki Marwat and North Waziristan.

According to a brief report issued by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), at least 16 people, including a child, were killed in the Bannu district during the storm because of rain-related accidents such aswall collapse. More than 100 people got injured. Over 126 cattle were reported dead and almost 69 houses sustained damage.

On June 18, another storm struck the division late in the afternoon. The winds, followed by heavy showers, wreaked havoc across the Bannu district once more. Bannu City was declared the worst-hit town this time.

Storm-related accidents claimed three lives in the district: two children and a woman. More than 50 people sustained injuries. As heavy rains battered the area, more than fifteen houses were damaged, according to a PDMA report.

“Never before in my life had I witnessed such destruction,” Batool told The News on Sunday. “The winds were fierce. A roof collapsed in our neighbourhood, killing five people,” she recalled.

This storm also damaged some power pylons and caused a suspension of electricity supply to many areas in Bannu. The storm and the heavy rain damaged 300 feeders in various parts of the province.

The district administration team are carrying out the actual damage assessment.

According to the PDMA, a total of four women and 13 children lost their lives in the two storms. The gusty winds damaged 508 houses. 140 cattle were reported dead in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan and Karak districts.

While discussing rehabilitation, Commissioner Parwaiz Sabat-Khel said “We are offering a compensation of one million rupees per death.”

“We are facing a delay in compensating the injured people because of a few technicalities; for instance the distinction between minor and serious injuries. We will sort it out those soon,” said the commissioner.

“The houses damage assessment survey has also been completed. In the next few days, we will begin the disbursement of the aid in Bannu, Lakki Marwat and North Waziristan,” said Sabat-Khel.

Meteorological Department Deputy Director Fahim told TNS that the average temperature in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had risen before both the storms that devastated the province this June.

“When the temperature rises, the air heats up and rises, creating an area of low pressure. At a certain height, moisture-rich warm air cools down and forms a cloud,” said Fahim.

He said that the storm was expected. “The Pakistan Met Office released the weather forecast and advisory ahead of the storm and sent warnings and alerts to the media, the NDMA and the PMDA. Within a week there was a similar weather system. These are pre-monsoon currents.”

“In the past, we had close to no moisture in the air in KP during June. Now we are observing a rapid increase in moisture levels,” says Fahim.

“In a recent report, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted extreme weather events in South Asia, especially storms, flash floods and droughts,” he added.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events. According to the PDMA, last year, floods killed 311 people. Among them there were 117 children and 43 women.

The floods also damaged 91,468 houses including 37,525 houses that were completely destroyed. A majority of the houses were destroyed in Tank.

The writer is a multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney

New kinds of weather