In the first spell of monsoon rains to hit the metropolis, the city wore the look of an overflowing drain as the authorities failed put into effect any measures for damage control. As commuters faced delays and 16 people in the city lost their lives, the only concrete step taken by the Sindh government was to sack Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Administrator, Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, taking notice of the post-rain mismanagement - or the lack thereof - sacked Zaidi and Municipal Services Director, Masood Alam soon after the downpour started.
In a press briefing late Saturday night, Shah also declared a state of emergency across the province and directed the provincial departments and district administrations to remain alert and assist in evacuation and provide relief to the affectees.
With events escalating quickly as most areas in the city stood inundated in knee-deep rainwater, the local bodies turned to the armed forces for assistance as army personnel were called in to assist the local bodies in their efforts to counter the devastation.
Karachi commissioner, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, told The Express Tribune that the army had been called for assistance in some of the worst-hit areas. “The situation has definitely taken a turn for the worse. We have declared an emergency and are using all our resources to assert control over the situation,” he said.
KMC’s CBA union president, Syed Zulfiqar Shah, was of the view that the municipality had failed to deliver an effective contingency plan despite the fact that the Met office had forecasted heavy rainfalls at the start of the monsoon season. “They have not paid their employees a single penny since the last four months. How can they expect the workers to continue their work?” he asked.
Siddiqui, on the other hand, said that, “It is true that Met office forecasted rain on Friday night. The forecast, however, was only for 11 mm. We were not prepared for this scale of heavy rainfall.”
The sacked KMC municipal services director, Masood Alam, while talking to The Express Tribune, however, refused to take the blame for the disastrous situation and claimed that it was not his responsibility to clear the encroachments along the nullahs. “These cursed rains have caused all this havoc. I am still sitting in my office as I cannot leave the city in this situation” he said.
With the highest rainfall recorded in North Karachi at 126.2mm and the lowest at 39.8 at the Airport, the city stood paralysed as major thoroughfares and junctions were inundated by rain water causing major trouble for the commuters who desperately tried in vain to reach their respective destinations.
The civic agencies, including the cantonment boards, Defence Housing Authority, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, Karachi Electric Supply Corporation, and Karachi Water and Sewerage Board stood by while the heavy downpour wreaked havoc into the lives of the general populace, thereby exposing their incompetence and failure to address the situation.
“There were no visible efforts to drain the overflowing water,” cried a citizen, Salman Ahmed who claimed to have been stuck at the Sakhi Hassan roundabout for about an hour. “A large number of vehicles have broken down in the middle of the roads. Most areas are plunged in darkness as the electric feeders have tripped. Despite all the inconvenience, there were no traffic police officials or KMC workers in sight. It seems we have been left to fend for ourselves in this ‘dark’ hour,” he lamented.
The Traffic DIG, Khaliq Sheikh, however, told The Express Tribune, that adequate personnel were deployed to tackle the traffic. He negated claims that traffic police was absent from the roads. “The problems occurred due to the heavy flooding which caused the cars’ engines to stop,” said Sheikh, adding that the traffic police provided all the assistance in their power to people whose cars had stopped working. “We could only help them bring their vehicles to the roadsides because we have no mechanics to fix cars for the people.”
Meanwhile, the schedules for trains were also disturbed as three trains, including the Karachi-bound Tezgam, Pakistan Express and Lahore-bound Shalimar Express reached were late due to the rain. “Pakistan Express arrived five hours late, while the Tezgam will depart two hours late from Karachi Cantt Station,” said Karachi Cantt station manager, Rafiq Baloch.
Owais Muzaffar inspects affected areas
The provincial minister for local bodies, Owais Muzaffar, accompanied by the Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon visited different areas of Karachi and suspended several officers over their inefficiency in carrying out cleanliness work. He warned the administrators of the five DMCs of suspension if the cleanliness of nullahs was not conducted properly.
The minister also inspected the cleanliness of main drainage lines in different areas of the city, including Saddar, Zaibun Nissa Street, MA Jinnah road, Nursery, Tariq road, PECHS society, Bahhdurabad, Muhammad Ali Society, Natha Khan goth, Drig Road, Rashid Minhas Road, Gulistan-e-Juhar, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Hassan Square, Nipa Chowrangi, Liaqatabad, Malir, North Nazimabad, Nazimabad, Bufferzone, Hydery, Sakhi Hassan, University Road and Kamran Chowrangi.
In his speech during the visit, the minister strongly criticised the KMC administrator Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi, Municipal services director, Masood Alam, and executive engineer, Chaudhry Shahid, over their failure to implement the rain emergency plan.
Muzaffar said that the government will make all efforts for cleanliness of the city and utilise all its resources to provide immediate relief to the citizens.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2013.