KARACHI: Heavy rain in the metropolis on Monday wreaked havoc, as at least five people, including a woman and children, died, rescue officials confirmed.
Two of those died as the roof of a house in Ibrahim Hyderi collapsed, while a three-year-old girl died when a wall collapsed in Malir's Shamsi Society, they said, adding that a woman was electrocuted to death in Liaquatabad, while a child died of electrocution in Mominabad, Orangi Town.
Several others were injured as a pole-mounted transformer (PMT) fell in Ibrahim Hyderi, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) said. One person was injured as a tree fell in Korangi's Sector 33-D, while a five-year-old was wounded when a wall collapsed in Malir's Memon Goth.
The rain brought the much-feared load-shedding in multiple neighbourhoods despite claims from the sole power supplying company, the K-Electric, that it had made improvements in its system ahead of the forecasted thunderstorm.
The monsoon system was said to have been in Karachi's southeast since the morning and had strengthened due to humidity from the sea, leading to the first rain in Pakistan's financial capital.
Earlier today, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) director had noted that thunder cells were observed near Karachi and the rain spell was "strong".
"Some areas in Karachi are experiencing rain with thunder," he had said, adding that strong winds and dark clouds were set over Mai Kolachi and Malir and Shahrah-e-Faisal were experiencing heavy rain.
The PMD's top official said wind speeds in the thunderstorm were recorded at 54 kilometres per hour.
According to data provided by the authority, the highest rainfall was recorded in Saddar, at 43 millimetres (mm), while 26 mm was registered at Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Faisal Base, 22mm in Nazimabad, 12mm at PAF Masroor Base, 8.8mm at Karacih's Jinnah International Airport, 3.1mm in Landhi, and 1.2mm in Surjani Town.
As the torrential rain accompanied by a thunderstorm started late afternoon in Karachi, two trees were reported to have been downed near Drigg Road on Shahrah-e-Faisal and the Arts Council of Pakistan, leading to traffic blockage.
Despite the PMD's early forecast, there seemed to be no plan to manage the traffic disruption from related authorities. Limited visibility due to heavy rain disrupted traffic flow at Shahrah-e-Faisal, while rain water stagnated near Quaidabad Bridge.
A major traffic jam was seen at President House Road, I.I. Chundrigar Road, and near Governor House. People returning to their homes were stranded in traffic.
K-Electric says improved system ahead of rain
The metropolis' sole power supplying company, the K-Electric, said Monday it already took significant steps to improve its distribution network ahead of the predicted torrential rains in the city.
In an update, a spokesperson for the K-Electric said protecting human lives was "a top priority" for the company. People should stay away from utility poles and broken wires in the rainy season, he advised.
Among the "commendable" steps it took to improve its system were geo-tagging of high- and low-tension (HT and LT) poles, earthing, and grounding.
"The K-Electric continuously remained active against the kunda [illegal electricity connections] mafia, as well as illegal Internet and TV cables on its poles," the spokesperson added.
The company also took steps against illegal street lights and dangerous switches installed on its utility poles, the official said, adding that the aim behind these measures was to improve the system ahead of the rains in Karachi.
"The protection of human lives has been our top priority," the K-E representative noted. "We hope that the city government and related institutions will drain rain water immediately.
"The K-Electric's mobile teams are always busy in timely assistance for power-related issues," the spokesperson said, adding that in case of any complaint before or during the rains, people may immediately reach out to its contact centre at 118 or social media platform.
Warning of urban flooding
A day prior, the PMD had forecasted monsoon rains in Sindh starting today, with heavy rainfalls expected in various cities across the province.
"Rain/wind-thundershowers is expected in Sindh while heavy fall at few places is also expected in lower Sindh,” the PMD had said in its daily weather report. "Rain/wind-thundershower [with few heavy fall] is expected in Karachi, Thatta, Badin, Mirpur Khas, Islamkot, Tharparkar, Nagrparkar, and Mithi.”
The monsoon system was expected to enter Tharparkar on Sunday from India’s Gujrat and was expected to enter Karachi accompanied by strong winds on Monday.
In an earlier warning, the PMD had said Karachi, as well as several other cities of Sindh, might be affected by urban flooding as monsoon currents strengthen in the province. "Heavy rainfalls may generate urban flooding in Karachi, Thatta, Badin, and Hyderabad on Monday and Tuesday," it had notified.
It also advised all concerned authorities to remain “alert” and take necessary precautionary measures during the forecast periods to avert any unfortunate incident.
In addition, the ruling PTI's leadership in Sindh had held a hard-hitting press conference on Sunday, demanding the federal government bring in another company to distribute electricity in Karachi to end the K-Electric's "monopoly".
Flanked by PTI leaders and the party's lawmakers from Sindh, the leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly, Firdous Shamim Naqvi, had said Karachiites were sick of the K-Electric. It was high time the city was provided another system of electricity distribution, he said.
"K-Electric does not have the capacity to take more than 600 megawatts (MWs) of electricity from the national grid,” said Naqvi. He added that distribution should be given to other companies through a tender before 2023.
The PTI Sindh leadership's scathing attack had come at a time when load-shedding has been testing the citizens' patience, with several parts of the city suffering from power outages for up to 15 hours a day.
Even though the K-Electric had assured Sindh Governor Imran Ismail last month that unannounced load-shedding in the city would come to an end within 48 hours, the duration of loadshedding has increased in many parts of the city.
Several areas of the city braved eight to 12 hours of power outages on Saturday night. with most areas of the city without power in the wee hours of Saturday.
Earlier, K-Electric Chief Executive Moonis Alvi, while talking in Geo News programme Naya Pakistan claimed that load-shedding was not taking place in the port city at the moment.
The power utility had earlier attributed that to shortage of furnace oil and had pledged that it would not last beyond Sunday. Alvi had told the talk show host, Shahzad Iqbal, that the power demand had dropped to 3,000MW, which the company could easily generate.
“The trouble begins when the load increases beyond our generation capacity of 3,200 MW and the demand surges to 3,600 MW. There was also no loadshedding during the initial days of lockdown in the city from March 20 to May 28,” he had claimed.