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Power breakdown after heavy rains

Power breakdown after heavy rains

IT seemed as if in 1967 the monsoon had come to stay in the Sindh capital for good. The city had already received heavy rains in the first week of July, causing great damage to infrastructure. Just when it was beginning to feel that the overcast conditions would finally relent, on July 24 a rainstorm hit Karachi. A day earlier, it had drizzled, although without disturbing citizens’ lives. In fact, it was a pretty pleasant experience for them. But the next day things went awry — the rainstorm unleashed its wrath on Karachiites with a vengeance.

At least 225 breakdowns in the electricity supply system were reported after the rain. Many could not register their complaints because the telephones at three of the five complaint sections of the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation’s (KESC) four zonal offices went kaput. Fire broke out in two KESC (now KE) substations in PECHS and Bath Island because rainwater had seeped into their installations.

All the emergency squads of the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) swung into action as soon as the downpour stopped (they couldn’t do that immediately because the water level on submerged streets and roads was much higher than the storm-water drains). The biggest of its team was employed in areas that were totally inundated. The 50-man squad of the corporation’s Garden department acted promptly to clear the city of the fallen trees that obstructed vehicular traffic.

The horticulturists did not exactly know how many trees fell in the city that day, but the number was large enough to alarm them. On Frere Road and Burnes Road alone, four trees — 15 to 30 years of age, weighing 50 to 100 maunds — were uprooted. The Garden Emergency Squad, equipped with three trucks, saws and axes, cleared the road.

If things were bad on the ground, then the situation in the air was not rosy either. A foreign passenger jetliner circled over Karachi airport for about an hour since the blinding downpour had made it difficult for it to land safely. The aircraft, which had come from Athens, approached the airport at 9:25am and managed to touch down at 10:29am. Only one international airplane landed smoothly on July 24, that too when the rain was about to end.

Out of all the localities disturbed by the inclement weather, Shershah and Azam Basti came across as calamity-hit ones. On July 25, hundreds of families spent their night on rooftops as water stood many feet deep in and around their houses. The water, during the course of the day, had hardly receded for them to come down. When they tried to step out of their houses, one more burst of shower flooded their localities and forced the harassed residents to go up. Half of the 15,000 population of Shershah was in that position since the rainstorm hit the city. A spokesman for the city administration said the water receded to about two to three feet by July 25, but then it rained again, raising the level to 10 feet.

On July 26, the KMC’s demolition team pulled down 15 buildings in the old town that had been declared dangerous structures. Heavy rains had made cracks in the buildings which had outlived their utility. Over 50 families living in the 15 works of stonemasonry were evacuated before the start of the demolition process.

The evacuation process continued in other areas as well. Families carrying whatever was left by the floods were seen leaving Baluchi Basti — a cluster of huts and mud-houses beyond Mahmoodabad — after their abodes began to sink. Women with bags of foodstuffs on their heads, fathers with children slung over their shoulders, and goats paddling through the water moved in search of a higher and safe place. The nearby Kashmir Colony and Manzoor Colony situated on a hillock were cut off entirely from the city due to the water-filled ravine.

On July 28, at least 1,200 families displaced in the Landhi-Korangi vicinity were shifted to six relief camps set up by the local municipal committee. It was a difficult time for Karachiites.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2017

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