Pakistanis, Indians, evacuate after deadly storms

Report
from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 25 Jun 2007
By Faisal Aziz

KARACHI, June 25 (Reuters) - Authorities in Pakistan and India prepared for more severe weather on Monday, evacuating people from low-lying areas, after weekend storms and flooding killed more than 350 people across the region.

Workers in the Pakistani city of Karachi struggled to clear roads of fallen trees and wreckage and to restore electricity as people were moved from coastal areas and other vulnerable spots.

In neighbouring India, authorities began evacuating tens of thousands threatened by flooding as the toll in havoc wrecked by the arrival of the rainy season topped 150.

Intermittent rain fell across much of the west of the subcontinent on Monday, In Karachi, nervous residents headed home early, fearing a repeat of the weekend's devastation.

Waseem Akhtar, the provincial government adviser on interior affairs, told reporters in Karachi people were being moved from dangerous areas, including land along city canals.

"All the beaches of Karachi have also been closed to the general public," Akhtar said. The army and navy were on stand-by.

City mayor Syed Mustafa Kamal said it was the wind that was so deadly on the weekend. "Roofs and walls of many houses collapsed, especially in the slums," he said.

Some people were killed by falling sign boards while others were electrocuted when power cables fell into flooded streets.

Provincial Health Minister Sardar Ahmed said 228 people had been killed. The city's main ambulance and mortuary service, the Edhi Trust, said its toll was about 200 dead.

But Akhtar had a lower toll. He said authorities were verifying lists of casualties and had confirmed 72.

Three Pakistani fishermen drowned when their boat sank and dozens were hurt. A fishermen's association said boats should not go back to sea until Wednesday.

Power supplies in Karachi are patchy at the best of times and long-suffering residents hurled stones at cars and power company vehicles on Sunday in protest against blackouts across the nation's commercial hub.

POLICE PROTECTION

Electricity cables had been brought down in more than 700 places, Kamal said. Police said they were escorting Karachi Electric Supply Corporation workers trying to fix them.

"We've provided protection to the KESC people. Our men are accompanying their vehicles to the affected areas," said city police chief Azhar Farooqui.

Intermittent power was restored in some areas on Monday.

In India, thunderstorms and overflowing rivers have left thousands of villages without basic services since Friday, and hundreds of miles of roads and rail tracks were under water in the worst-hit southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

At least 38 people have died in the state and seven were missing, officials said. But there was some respite for the badly hit district town of Kurnool, sandwiched between two rivers, as water began receding on Sunday.

"I have never seen flooding in both rivers for over half-a-century," said Chandrasekhar Kalkura, who owns a hotel in the town of about 200,000 people.

Indian weather officials forecast heavy rain on both west and east coasts, with a storm in the Bay of Bengal due to hit Andhra Pradesh by Wednesday.

In the state of Karnataka, at least 29 people were killed over the weekend. Further north, two people were killed in a landslide in a slum in Mumbai. TV stations have reported more than 50 deaths elsewhere in Maharashtra state.

Media said 38 people had been killed in the southern Indian state of Kerala, visited by thousands of tourists each year.

Hundreds of people are killed each year, and hundreds of thousands are forced from their homes, in the South Asian rainy season. Though deadly, the rain is vital for agriculture.

(Additional reporting by Imtiaz Shah in Karachi, Krittivas Mukherjee in Mumbai and Sumeet Chatterjee in Bangalore)

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