(MANEND NEWS): Authorities remained on high alert on Thursday as Cyclone Biparjoy, currently classified as a “very severe cyclonic storm”, was expected to make landfall after dusk.
According to Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman, it had slowed down.
“Cyclone Biparjoy has slowed down but core remains intense,” she said on Twitter. “It will not make landfall before nightfall now. More information will be shared soon from the National Disaster Management Authority.”
In its 3pm forecast, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said the cyclone was expected to landfall between Keti Bandar and India’s Gujarat by evening.
The alert issued by the PMD said that cyclone had moved north-northeastward during the last six hours and was now at a distance of about 220km south of Karachi, 210km south Thatta and 130km south-southwest of Keti Bandar.
The alert said that widespread wind-dust/thunderstorm and heavy rain was likely in Sindh’s Thatta, Sujawal, Badin, Tharparkar, Mirpurkhas and Umerkot districts from June 15-17.
It further predicted dust/thunderstorm and rain accompanied with squally winds in Karachi, Hyderabad, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allayar, Shaheed Benazirabad & Sanghar districts today and tomorrow (Friday).
It added that dust/thunderstorm and isolated heavy rainfall was likely in Balochistan’s Hub, Lasbela and Khuzdar districts today and tomorrow.
The weather alert said that a storm surge of 3-4 metres was expected at Keti Bander, where the cyclone will make landfall, and its surroundings.
“Sea conditions along Sindh coast may get very rough/high (2-2.5m) and rough/very rough (2m) along Balochistan coast (Sonmiani, Hub, Kund Malir. Ormara and surroundings),” it said.
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman also shared what she called a “consolidated report” from all disaster management departments and the weather satellite.
The report, however, said the cyclone would make landfall by midday. It also said that over 100mm of rainfall was predicted in Karachi, Hyderabad, Tando Mohammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Dadu, Shaheed Benazirabad and Sanghar.
Meanwhile, over 300mm of rainfall was predicted in Thatta, Sajawal, Mirpurkhas, Badin, Umerkot and Tharparkar between June 15-17.
‘Storm still unstable, unpredictable’
Addressing a press conference alongside NDMA Chairman Lt Gen Inam Haider later in the day, Rehman said Cyclone Biparjoy had moved further from Karachi but at the same time noted that the storm was still unpredictable and unstable.
“Its landfall period is variable and has moved further between June 15 and 16,” she told reporters.
Rehman said the speed and direction of the cyclone were changing every hour, adding that over 17 stations were currently monitoring it and Biparjoy was the most monitored storm in the world right now.
Biparjoy, she continued, was still “a very severe cyclonic system under Category 3”. Its sustained wind speed was very volatile and the storm was headed toward north and north-east.
The minister said that Karachi would experience heavy rainfall and strong winds but would not be directly impacted by the cyclone.
Rehman also stated that there were 90 electricity feeders in coastal areas and there were chances of power failure when the cyclone made landfall. “Therefore, teams have been called in from Punjab for assistance in repair work.”
Regarding flight operations, the minister said airports had been given told to suspend commercial flights at airports in Karachi, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Sukkur, and Moenjo Daro if the air pressure crossed the threshold of 30 nautical knots.
‘More than 80,000 people evacuated’
The climate change minister also said that 81,935 people in vulnerable areas had been relocated with the help of the Pakistan Army, Navy, Rangers, and police.
At the moment, 63 evacuation camps were active while 106 were on standby.
“We are ensuring the provision of cooked food and clean water at relief camps, which are the most essential. But we have also alerted medical teams and 86 units have been deployed in the field,” she added.
Speaking on Geo News programme ‘Geo Pakistan’ on Thursday morning, she said that Biparjoy was a category three cyclone and 10 days ago nobody knew where it was headed.
She further said that all government institutions had taken the threat seriously, adding that the cyclone had tracked eastwards during the past four days.
Rehman urged the public to “show unity” and avoid heading to the sea. “We have seen this a lot that people head to the beach to watch the cyclone. Our advice is to not even sit by the window,” she said.
She said that these were not “natural climatic conditions”.
“I have also been warned that maybe, just maybe another cyclone will head towards us in July,” she said, adding that she did not wish spread panic.
DCs in Sindh told to take ‘mitigation measures’
The Sindh Provincial Disaster Management Authority directed the deputy commissioners and the chairmen of the District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMA) in Karachi division and the districts of Matiari, Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Thatta, Sujawal, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Tharparkar and Umerkot to take necessary “mitigation measures”.
Officials were told to ensure vigilant monitoring of the cyclone and to coordinate with the Provincial Emergency Operation Centre (PEOC). They were also told to arrange rescue boats and transport in order to evacuate people from low-lying areas.
The authority directed them to ensure fallen trees, wires and “other loose objects” were removed, while also ensuring that residents were evacuated from weak residential structures or mud houses. It also told the to identify high-risk areas prone to storm surges, flooding and prepare evacuation plans accordingly.
The officials were also directed to evacuate residents from coastal locations, ensure cleaning of stormwater drains, ensure pumping stations were operational and to remove all bill boards.
Further, they were asked to conduct a public awareness campaign about the cyclone’s probable effects as well as safety measures.
“Keep fishermen informed of the weather conditions and advise them not to venture into open sea until the situation improves,” the directives said.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was also briefed on the latest situation arising out of the cyclone.
A handout issued by the CM Office said, Shah was told that 76,925 people had been evacuated in Badin, Sujawal and Thatta while a total of 44 relief camps had been set up.
India braces for cyclone
Meanwhile, authorities in India’s western state of Gujarat have evacuated more than 75,000 people from vulnerable coastal communities.
In the coastal town of Mandvi, a Reuters witness said while winds were high, the sky was blue and the sun was out on Thursday morning with shops starting to open and people coming out on the streets.
“On Thursday morning, wind speed as high as 90kmph were reported on Gujarat coast,” said a senior India Meteorological Department (IMD) official.
“The speed will rise gradually in the next few hours to 120km/h, gusting to 135km/h in the afternoon. We are expecting landfall in the evening when wind speeds would be even higher.”
Auditorium halls in schools and other government buildings were converted into relief camps to provide shelter to displaced people in both India and Pakistan.
Temporary thatched houses in coastal Gujarat could be completely flattened while standing crops, plantations and roads were expected to face major damage, the IMD said in a statement, adding that railways could also face disruption.
Indian authorities suspended fishing until Friday, closed down schools and banned people from using beaches.
Many offshore oil installations and major ports, which line the coasts of Gujarat, have suspended operations.