June 12, 2023
ISLAMABAD – The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Sunday urged the public to stay away from shorelines as Cyclone Biparjoy, which is heading towards the coastal areas of Pakistan and India, was likely to intensify in the next 24 hours.
“The cyclone is expected to impact southern and south-eastern parts of Sindh on June 13,” the agency said in a series of tweets.
It warned that cyclones could strong winds, torrential rains, and floods in coastal areas. “People should be aware of weather conditions and avoid going to the beach whereas fishermen should avoid boating in the open sea.”
The NDMA also called on people to follow local authorities’ guidance in any emergency situation.
Over the past few days, the Karachi commissioner has banned entry to the beaches in Karachi, as well as fishing, sailing, swimming, and bathing at seas within the territorial limit of Karachi owing to the threat from today till the end of the storm.
However, a considerable number of people could be seen present at Karachi’s Seaview despite the government’s directives to stay away from the shore.
Karachi South Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Syed Asad Raza told Dawn.com that there was a ban on going into the open sea for swimming, fishing, etc. There were no restrictions on going to the beach otherwise.
“Despite this, the police and Defence House Authority are vigilant and trying to prevent people from going to the sea,” he added.
PMD says cyclone 690km away from Karachi
The warnings come as the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), in an official statement, said the cyclone had now further intensified into an “extremely severe cyclonic storm”.
It said the system was at a distance of about 690km south of Karachi, 670km south of Thatta, and 720km southeast of Ormara.
The Met department located the cyclone near latitude 18.7°N and longitude 67.8°E, and said the system is “most likely to track further northward until June 14 morning”.
It added that the cyclone will then recurve northeastward and cross between Keti Bandar (southeast Sindh) and the Indian Gujrat coast on June 15 as a “very severe cyclonic storm”.
The PMD said the cyclone’s maximum sustained surface winds were 180-200km per hour while gusts as high as 220km/h were around the system centre. Sea conditions were “phenomenal around the system centre with maximum wave height 35-40 feet”, it added.
It further said, “The favourable environmental conditions (sea surface temperature of 30-32°C, low vertical wind shear and upper-level divergence) are supporting the system to maintain its intensity.”
The PMD’s daily forecast also noted that “dust-raising/gusty winds are expected in central/southern districts of the country” on Sunday and Monday afternoons.
Separately, the NDMA quoted the Pacific Disaster Centre (PDC) stating that around 1.38 million people from both Pakistan and India were exposed to the cyclone, of which 305,755 were among the vulnerable population.
It added the cyclone had sustained winds of 185km/h with gusts as high as 232km/h.
The PDC’s website further said the system is “forecast to remain on a generally northward trajectory through 72 hours, after which the bulk of the guidance indicates an eastward turn, while a few rebels still shift westward”.
The NDMA also said that Biparjoy’s path, based on international weather models, was for “proactive measures against likely impacts”.
“It’s evolving sit and impact will only be certain w/ further development of the system,” it added.
According to Zoom Earth’s live radar, a slight change in the system’s forecasted track was noticeable. The new projected route shows the cyclone heading towards the Indian coastline, compared to yesterday’s prediction of heading towards Pakistan’s coastal cities.
However, the radar showed that large parts of the Sindh coast remain in the cyclone’s “cone of uncertainty”.
In its alert, the PMD cited the system’s approach towards southeast Sindh and warned citizens that “widespread wind-dust/thunderstorm rain with some very heavy/extremely heavy falls accompanied with squally winds of 80-100km/hour” were likely in Thatta, Sujawal, Badin, Tharparker and Umerkot districts from June 13-17.
It further said that “dust/thunderstorm-rain with few heavy falls and accompanied with squally winds of 60-80km/h” were likely in Karachi, Hyderabad, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allayar and Mirpurkhas districts from June 13 or 14 to 16.
The Met department noted, “Squally (high-intensity) winds may cause damage to loose & vulnerable structures (kutcha houses).”
A storm surge of 3-3.5 meters was expected at the land-falling point (Keti Bandar and around, it added.
The PMD reiterated its advice to fishermen to not venture into the open sea “till the system is over by June 17 as the Arabian Sea conditions may get very rough/high accompanied with high tides along the coast”.
On the other hand, Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman noted that authorities in Sindh and Balochistan should be on “high alert”.
“Biparjoy Cyclone is unpredictable yet categorised as high intensity. Panic is counterproductive but caution and planning are better than being caught unaware,” she tweeted.
Sindh govt ‘fully prepared’
Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said the Sindh government was “fully prepared” to deal with the possible impact of the cyclone.
Addressing a press conference in Karachi today, he said, “The cyclone — which is extremely severe — has moved off Karachi’s route and is now expected to hit the coasts of Thatta, Badin, Sujawal, Badin, Tharparkar, and Indian Gujarat.”
However, Shah continued, showers were predicted in Karachi with winds at the speed of 100m/hr. “It is being said that when the cyclone will hit the shore, the winds will reduce to 60-80km/hr.”
The CM said that under the new forecast Thatta, Sujawal, and Badin were identified as areas under threat.
“Commissioners of these districts have been alerted and we have reached out to the Pakistan Army for possible evacuation. We have also identified 8,000-9,000 families that are vulnerable to the storm and safe areas are being prepared to relocate them,” he added.
Talking about the situation in Karachi, Shah said, “The commissioner has been told to secure billboards and loose structures to prevent any loss of life.”
He also requested the people to refrain from heading to the beaches when the cyclone hit the shores. “The purpose of telling all this is to assure the public that we are fully prepared for any possible outcome,” the minister added.
Earlier in the day, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said the provincial government is “completely monitoring the situation of weather in coastal areas”.
In a tweet, he reiterated the directives issued to fishermen to not go into the deep sea and said district administrations were “completely vigilant and on alert”.
A day ago, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had also directed the NDMA to take “emergency measures” in view of Cyclone Biparjoy, Radio Pakistan had said.
It quoted the premier directing the NDMA to make “advance preparations in collaboration with the Sindh government”.
Shehbaz further directed the authority to provide full assistance to people during storms and rains in Balochistan, Radio Pakistan added.
Meanwhile, the official Twitter account for Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority advised its residents to prepare for the cyclone and issued a list of precautionary measures.
Separately, the Civil Aviation Authority also issued instructions containing precautionary measures to be taken at Jinnah International Airport.
It directed authorities to remain “extra vigilant” and take necessary actions to avoid any untoward situation.
Emergency control rooms to be established
In a notification today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the Sindh Health Services in Hyderabad directed for emergency control rooms to be established in Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, and Shaheed Benazirabad divisions.
It further directed officials to “review necessary preparedness at all health facilities, outreach rooms, availability of life-saving drugs and on-road ambulance services”.
The notification also asked that functionality of equipment, power supply backup at each hospital, and staff attendance of medics, nurses, and paramedics be assured.
“Health officials not to leave headquarters till further directions,” it added.
Karachi commissioner orders 40 dangerous buildings evacuated
Separately, Karachi Commissioner Mohammed Iqbal Memon chaired a high-level meeting of relevant institutions in view of the approaching cyclone and directed them to finalise a plan by Monday evening to deal with the event.
Chief meteorologist Sarfraz Ahmed informed the participants that there were slim chances that the cyclone would touch Karachi’s coast but there was a possibility of heavy winds and moderate to heavy rains.
Sindh Building Control Authority Director General Yaseen Shar briefed the officials that there were 450 dangerous buildings in Karachi and notices were issued to residents to vacate them.
It was decided in the meeting that 40 extremely dangerous buildings would be vacated by Monday evening.
The district commissioners stated that actions were taken to remove billboards, which would be completed by Monday evening.
The Commissioner took notice of the non-implementation of section 144 at beaches and issued directions for its strict implementation.
Karachi-Electric administration informed the meeting that they had taken steps to prevent electrocution and ensure power supply through alternative arrangements.
Health department officials said that Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre were put on alert for any eventuality.
In an earlier notification dated June 9, Memon had directed for all billboards, signboards and other advertisement material placed across the city to be “removed forthwith to avoid human losses and damages to the property in the city”.
The notification, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, cited the PMD’s alert of the cyclone hitting the coastal city between June 12-17 and resulting in torrential rains/storm.
It warned that the rains could cause billboards, similar signages and weak trees to fall down on the roads and streets, resulting in “loss of precious human lives and damage to properties”.
The commissioner had also asked for a compliance report regarding the directives to be submitted to his office at the earliest.
Indian authorities issue alert
Meanwhile, the Indian Meteorological Department also tweeted a “yellow message” alert for its Saurashtra and Kutch coast.
It said Biparjoy lay over the east-central Arabian Sea, 460km south-southwest (SSW) of Porbandar, 510km SSW of Dwarka and 600km SSW of Naliya.
It forecast the system to cross Saurashtra and Kutch and adjacent Pakistan coasts around noon of June 15 while remaining a “very severe” category cyclone.
The ANI shared a video of high tides witnessed on Mumbai’s coast ahead of the cyclone.
In a separate report, it said Delhi witnessed a “sudden change in weather with temperatures falling below 40 degrees Celsius”.
The ANI quoted the New Delhi Regional Weather Forecasting Centre as saying that “thunderstorms, light-intensity rains and gusty winds” were predicted in Delhi.
Authorities ban coastal activities
On Saturday night, the PMD had advised the authorities concerned to be on “high alert” as the system could cause flooding, particularly in the low-lying areas, among other damages.
“The cyclone over the east-central Arabian Sea has formed an eye, indicating that the system has grown more organised and more powerful,” chief meteorologist Dr Sardar Sarfaraz had told Dawn.
According to him, the cyclone was, at that moment, directed towards the coastal areas of Karachi, Thatta, Sujawal, Badin, Tharparkar and the adjoining areas of Indian Gujrat.
Earlier the same day, the PMD had noted there was an uncertainty in the “global models’ final track forecast” of the cyclone, with some taking it to the Makran-North Oman coast and others indicating it towards the Indian Gujarat-Sindh coast.
Authorities in Karachi had also banned going into the “open sea for sailing, fishing, swimming or bathing within the territorial limits of Karachi Division” from June 11 onwards, under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.