ISLAMABAD – Parts of Pakistan’s commercial hub, Karachi, continued to be submerged Monday, days after record-breaking rainfall caused heavy flooding.
“Normal rainfall in Karachi in the month of August is 68 millimeters (6.8 centimeters). This year, we have recorded 587.5 millimeters (58.75 centimeters) so far,” said Muhammad Riaz, the director general of Pakistan’s Meteorological Department.
Last Thursday, the city received more than 23 centimeters of rain, the highest on record in a single day.
Residents in the port city posted cellphone footage of houses destroyed, streets resembling rivers, cars and motorcycles floating, and people swimming.
“What we have witnessed in Karachi today was apocalyptic in some ways. The true hurt & damage will be visible after the water recedes. Nothing but devastation,” resident Fakhr e Alam tweeted along with cellphone video of his neighborhood, where water covered almost half the walls and gates of surrounding houses.
This was 26th street DHA Karachi, my neighborhood….this is why I was worried about my family, my father. What we have witnessed in Karachi today was apocalyptic in some ways. The true hurt & damage will be visible after the water recedes. Nothing but devastation. #KarachiRain pic.twitter.com/loWHBQ1rZC
— Fakhr-e-Alam (@falamb3) August 27, 2020
Another video shot from inside a car showed the bottom part of the steering wheel submerged.
— Siasat.pk (@siasatpk) August 27, 2020
The flooding severely hampered movement, including for emergency vehicles.
“My Uncle in Karachi had a heart attack this evening and relatives and neighbors tried everything from trying to drive him to physically carrying him on their shoulders to get to the hospital, but they couldn’t make it on time and he passed away,” Fatima Akram Hayat said in a tweet.
My Uncle in Karachi had a heart attack this evening and relatives and neighbors tried everything from trying to drive him to physically carrying him on their shoulders to get to the hospital, but they couldn’t make it on time and he passed away. #KarachiRain
— Fatima Akram Hayat (@fatimakramhayat) August 27, 2020
Residents complained of sewage on the streets and in water tanks. Power was out in several areas for days amid sweltering heat and humidity. The outage also caused disruptions in cellphone service, interrupting emergency management and leaving citizens out of touch with loved ones.
In some cases, the electricity cables broke, causing fears of electrocution.
“Few residents located in these zones have also requested us not to power up supply since it may be a safety hazard for them,” tweeted Karachi’s electricity provider, K-Electric.
Meanwhile, authorities said another weather system was hovering over Sindh province, increasing the likelihood of more rains in the coming days.
The large metropolis, considered to be Pakistan’s economic lifeline, has faced problems of overcrowding and unplanned development since the country’s independence in 1947.
“[A] very large majority of its population lives in informal settlements in poorly designed housing with inadequate services,” according to a 2017 working paper, titled, “Drivers of climate change vulnerability at different scales in Karachi.”
Much of the city’s planning woes have been exacerbated over the decades due to corruption coupled with political rivalries among local, provincial and federal governments.
Parts of Karachi are owned by the federal government. In addition, local and provincial governments have set up parallel structures of service delivery, like trash pickup, diluting resources.
“We need to clearly understand who is responsible for what. Until the municipal functions are divided between the federal and provincial governments, problems of delivery will remain,” Murtaza Wahab, the spokesman for Sindh government, told local news channel Geo News.
According to the working paper, bad governance and development shortcomings in Karachi “have created vulnerabilities at different scales that are likely to exacerbate the impacts of climate change-related weather events taking place within the city and elsewhere in the country.”
Development professional Zaigham Khan said overcrowding and slum developments were a result of the city absorbing the social and economic problems of the entire country.
“If there is terrorism in FATA (erstwhile tribal area), locals move to Karachi. When there is war in Afghanistan, the most refugees arrive in Karachi. When there are floods in the country, the affected go to Karachi. If there is insurgency in Balochistan, locals escape to Karachi. If there are no jobs in southern Punjab, the preferred refuge is Karachi,” he said.
Like other metropolitan cities of the world, he said, Karachi needs to be managed by a strong municipal government and an empowered mayor, but he added that local politics intervened in the execution of such an idea.