Pakistan: Tropical cyclone barrels towards Sindh's coast
KARACHI: As tropical cyclone Phet travels northwards towards Sindh's coastal areas and is expected to hit them on Friday waves in the sea have already started swelling and rains were reported in some parts of the interior of the province on Wednesday.
Dr Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, director general of the Meteorological Department, said that Phet would hit the Omani coast on Thursday morning. It was expected to re-curve towards Sindh coastal areas, including Karachi, on Thursday afternoon and hit them on Friday afternoon.
He said that Phet might lose most of its energy after hitting the Omani coast and it would not be as severe as it was at present. Its intensity is also expected to be less than the cyclone that had hit Sindh in 1999.
Phet is now around 900 km from Karachi.
The cyclone will bring widespread heavy rains and thunderstorms to the coasts of Karachi and Makran. According to Director Meteorological Office (MO) Naeem Shah, the velocity of the cyclone was six nautical miles (NM) per hour. In 24 hours, it will be 124 NM before it heads towards Pakistan's coast.
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.
Dr Qamar told Dawn that Phet had intensified into a very severe tropical cyclone, with a maximum sustained wind of 64 to 119 knots near the centre.
He said that Phet had moved northwestwards along coastal areas of Oman over the past six hours and lay at 17.5 N-60.8 E.
The chief weatherman said that Phet was likely to intensify further in the next 24 hours. It may hit land areas south of Karachi on Friday. The storm swell near the landfall is likely to be six to eight metres high.
Dr Qamar said that under the influence of this system fairly widespread rainfall with scattered heavy to very heavy rainfall accompanied by strong gusty winds were likely in Sindh and Balochistan coastal areas over the next three to four days.
Heavy rains may case flash flooding in southern Balochistan and Sindh, including Karachi.
Dr Qamar said that the Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre of Pakistan Meteorological Department had issued a warning and asked the fishermen who were in the sea to return to the coast. It also advised fishermen not to venture in open sea till Saturday. It asked the irrigation authorities in Sindh and Balochistan to reduce inflow in the irrigation system.
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum officials said that over 100 fishing boats from Karachi, 30 from Badin and 30 from Jati, with 5,000-6,000 fishermen on board had not returned. They said that a search operation involving helicopters and speed boats would be launched in Kajar Creek, Sir Creek and adjoining waterways.
The officials said that after the met office warning several fishing boats had returned to the coast, but about 170 were still in the sea.
They said that PFF had set up five centres in Jati to accommodate over 600 families of fishermen from 35 villages.
They said that rains with strong winds had been reported from some areas of Mirpurkhas and Umerkot.
Saleem Shahid adds from Quetta: Strong winds were already lashing parts of the Makran coast and Cyclone Phet is expected to hit coastal areas of Balochistan in the next 24 hours, reports said.
Three-four metres high tides have developed in the rough sea surrounding coastal areas of Gwadar, Pasni, Jiwani and Ormara.
"The coast is safe so far, but very rough and high tides can be seen in Gwadar which is surrounded by the sea from three sides," a senior official of the Gwadar town administration told Dawn on Wednesday night.
Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani directed commissioners of Kalat and Makran divisions and the provincial disaster management authority to take all steps to ensure safety of fishermen and people of coastal areas.
Reuters adds: Tropical cyclone Phet barrelled towards the coast of Oman on Wednesday, strengthening fast and forecast to become a powerful Category 5 storm.