Pakistan: Cyclone Phet losing intensity: Met office
KARACHI: The intensity of tropical cyclone Phet is expected to subside when it hits the country's coastal areas on Sunday, according to the Met office.
The Metrological department's chief, Dr Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, told Dawn on Thursday that currently Phet, having a wind speed of 118 to 220 kilometres per hour, was classified as a 'very severe tropical cyclone', but after its expected loss of intensity its speed would be between 70 and 90km. It will then be downgraded to 'moderate intensity'.
Fishermen's representatives said that over 300 boats belonging to Thatta, Badin and Karachi were in the open sea. They also expressed dissatisfaction over the evacuation work in some areas.
Dr Chaudhry said the current location of Phet was 19N-59.5E near the Omani coast, about 800km south-west of Karachi.
After hitting the Oman coast, it might start veering towards Pakistan's coastal area and was likely to lose intensity during the process, the Met chief said.
He said estimates suggested that the slow-moving tropical cyclone would hit the country's coast on Sunday with moderate intensity - maximum sustained winds of 70-90km with associated storm surge of three to five metres.
The country's chief weatherman said that under the influence of this system fairly widespread rains, with isolated heavy to very heavy falls accompanied by gusty winds, were likely in the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan between Saturday and Tuesday.
He said the meteorological department's tropical cyclone warning centre had warned fishermen who were in the open sea to return to the coast immediately. He said fishermen had also been advised not to venture into the open sea till further orders.
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum's chief Mohammad Ali Shah said over 150 fishing vessels had returned to the coast after a search operation by naval helicopters and speedboats on Thursday, but over 300 others were reported to be in the open sea.
He said many fishermen took shelter in mangroves in nearby creeks on seeing an ensuing storm if they were away from their villages.
The fishermen's leader expressed dissatisfaction over the evacuation of villagers, pointing out that 900 people had been shifted from Jati area of Thatta district to a school in Golarchi (Badin district), but almost half of them had not been given food since Wednesday night.
He said efforts were being made to shift to the mainland people living in 50 to 100 villages on islands off the Keti Bunder coast.
Mr Shah said 7,000 to 8,000 people of 10 to 20 villages in Shekrio Bandari area, near the sea, had refused to leave their homes because of lack of facilities and food at emergency centres in Bhugra Memon.
Dr Mohammad Hanif, Director of the PMD's National Weather Forecasting Centre, said five cyclones had hit the country - in 1948, 1964, 1985, 1999 and 2007 - since independence.
He said 98 per cent of cyclones had turned to the Indian state of Gujarat, one per cent went to the Gulf and one per cent came towards the Pakistani coast.
The last cyclone that hit the Balochistan coast in 2007 caused a swell of two to four metres and resulted in over 800 deaths.
Wind speed in 'deep depression' (Category 1) is between 22 and 27 knots and can cause negligible damage to houses, trees and some crops; wind speed in 'cyclonic storm' (category 2) is 28 to 33 knots and can cause minor damage to houses and significant damage to signboards, trees and small crafts; 'severe cyclonic storm' (category 3) has a wind speed of 34 to 47 knots and can cause some roof and structural damage and destruction of some caravans and power failure; 'very severe cyclonic storm' (category 4) has wind speed of 48 to 63 knots and can cause significant structural damage and blow away caravans and dangerous air-borne debris; and a 'super cyclonic storm' (category 5) has over 120 knots wind speed and causes widespread destruction and uprooting of trees.