Rain batters Pakistani coast as cyclone looms

By Faisal Aziz

KARACHI, June 26 (Reuters) - A cyclone approached the coast of Pakistan on Tuesday threatening more devastation days after about 230 people were killed when heavy rain and wind lashed the city of Karachi.

Authorities in Pakistan and neighbouring India have evacuated thousands of people from low-lying areas after weekend storms and flooding killed nearly 400 people across the South Asian region.

Heavy rain fell over Karachi and traffic was thin on its gloomy streets as many people stayed at home. Paramilitary troops were directing traffic at intersections where traffic lights were still out of order after the weekend chaos.

But weather officials said the worst might be over for Karachi as tropical cyclone Yemyin moved in a northwesterly direction over the Arabian Sea towards Baluchistan province and away from the city of 12 million people.

"The cyclone is heading towards Baluchistan. Landfall is expected before noon (0700 GMT) in the Ormara and Pasni coastal areas," chief meteorologist Qammar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry told Reuters.

The storm's intensity had decreased slightly but winds at the centre were still around 80 miles (130 kilometres) per hour.

At least six people were killed in severe weather in Baluchistan on Monday and authorities there said thousands of people were being evacuated from low-lying areas, including from near a dam where the water level had risen dangerously.

"We can see two threats, one from the cyclone in the coastal belt and second from torrential rain as water in dams and canals has started touching dangerous levels," said Baluchistan provincial government spokesman Raziq Bugti.

"There are 200,000 to 250,000 people in the coastal belt and we've started evacuating them to safer sites. Thousands of people have been shifted," he said.

Police at the port of Gwadar, to the west of where the storm is expected to make landfall, said only light rain was falling.

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

Thousands of villages have been left without basic services in India's worst-hit southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

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.

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 and national economies.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider, Zeeshan Haider)


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