Pakistan evacuates 60,000 as cyclone Phet looms
KARACHI: A major cyclone was closing in on Pakistan’s coastline, where the president ordered immediate precautionary measures and around 60,000 residents were being evacuated Thursday, officials said.
Tens of thousands were being evacuated from vulnerable coastal villages in the southern province of Sindh and another half a million could be affected in Balochistan province if Cyclone Phet smashes into Pakistan.
President Asif Ali Zardari ordered the military and government to take “immediate precautionary measures” as the tropical cyclone approached.
“Cyclone Phet has almost reached the Oman coast and could recurve towards Pakistan’s coastline of Balochistan and Sindh in the next 24-36 hours,” Naeem Shah, a meteorological department official, told AFP.
Hospitals have been put on alert, medicine and equipment stockpiled, while tinned rations and clothes are being arranged, authorities said.
Forecasters warned the cyclone could uproot power and communication lines along the coast but believed there would be less impact on Karachi.
The cyclone was packing winds of 150 kilometres (90 miles) an hour but was likely to lessen by the time it reaches Pakistan.
Authorities in Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital, said they have evacuated around 60,000 people from coastal villages, where poor infrastructure and communications make them vulnerable to storms.
“We have shifted them to hundreds of relief camps established in school buildings in the area,” said Munir Memon, a senior official in the provincial relief commission.
“We have a better infrastructure and improved health facilities in Karachi which makes the city much safer from such catastrophes,” he said.
Pakistan’s meteorological department has predicted heavy rainfall and strong winds along the coast over the next three days.
Forecasters say seas will be stormy and Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency said it had ordered all boats to remain in harbours.
In Balochistan, the head of the southwestern province’s disaster management authority, said 500,000 people in coastal towns are under threat from the cyclone.
“The authority has taken all precautionary measures to deal with the situation and to evacuate people to areas at least 10 kilometres (six miles) away from the sea in case the cyclone hits,” said Mohammad Hassan Baloch.
In Karachi, the Maritime Security Agency dispatched speed boats to several dozen fishing boats that were at sea and oblivious of the warnings, spokesman Shakil Ahmed said.
The fishermen organisation said that over 170 fishing boats with 5,000-6,000 fishermen on board were still in the sea and a search operation would be launched on Thursday with the help of the navy.
Pakistan Navy released a press note to warn the fishermen and coastal areas inhabitants that the storm will hit Pakistani shores on June 7 and 8.
It also stated that Sea King helicopters and frigates are on high alert for search and rescue operations, while two helicopters are continuously in air to observe the situation.—Agencies/ Dawn
Thursday, 03 Jun, 2010