Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durani faced a lot of flak for making light of Cyclone Nilofar in an assembly session, but the city administration doesn’t seem to be taking the situation very seriously either. Despite directions from the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), neither have all shaky billboards been removed, nor all drains unclogged.
Last week, the PDMA directed the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and cantonments to clear all drains of garbage so that water wouldn’t collect in the streets in case of rain. They were told to remove loose structures, billboards mounted on tall poles and any hoardings which could fall due to high-pressure winds.
Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui held an emergency press conference where he informed media persons about the precautionary measures the administration had taken in this regard. Several senior officials were present at the press conference. All administration officials claim that they have taken “all necessary steps” to secure the city.
Administrator Rauf Akhtar Farooqui said the department had constituted two committees to remove unsafe billboards from the city. He said they had removed at least 100 billboards so far and planned to remove 600 more by Thursday.
When asked how many billboards there were in the city, Farooqui said he was unaware. “The committee will complete its job and let me know… we need to save the city now.”
KMC Municipal Services senior director Masood Alam claimed that the authority will unclog all drains in the city in two days. “We rented 20 grab cranes and 40 dumpers and have started clearing the drains.” He said they initially planned to clear 10 main drains including PIDC, Kalri, Pitcher, Nehr-i-Khayyam, Gujjar Orangi and Soldier Bazaar. “We will not allow storm water to stagnate in the city.” A Clifton Cantonment Board spokesman claimed they had removed 100 billboards in places most likely to be hit hard by the cyclone – near Seaview and around the DHA. He said as a precaution, they were removing small signboards on Seaview Road as well. In CBC’s jurisdiction, a large billboard measures 60×20, a medium-sized billboard measures 15×45, and a small one 10×2. He said there were around 60 large billboards. “We have removed 10 shaky billboards so far,” he said, adding that most of them were made of wood so they were fastening them with chains instead of removing them.
What to do when a cyclone is about to hit your town?
Cyclone, typhoon, hurricane are the same thing
The only difference between a cyclone, typhoon and hurricane is the location of where the storm occurs. All three are the same weather phenomenon; scientists use different names for these storms depending on where they are. A storm in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific is a hurricane while the same type of storm in the Northwest Pacific is a typhoon. Similarly, when these winds blow in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, they are called cyclones.
People living near the shore should install metal shutters on glass windows and remove awnings or any materials that might blow away in the wind. Turn off power, gas, and water a few hours before the cyclone hits
People living in huts and small settlements close to the sea should remain in close coordination with the district administration regarding evacuation details
Have a contingency plan – contact the administration for information about the nearest evacuation route and higher ground. Stay glued to the radio for any updates
Keep a first-aid kit, torch and a list of emergency numbers on hand. Important documents must be stashed in a safe location
Check with your neighbours to see if they have taken precautions. If they haven’t, help them prepare. Ask a friend to sit your pets – it might get scary for them
Don’t go to the wall near Devil’s Point to watch the cyclone – it’s not worth the risk
Fishermen must not venture out into open sea
Do not stay inside a construction that does not appear sound
Even after the cyclone passes, stay indoors till the authorities announce that all’s in the clear
Do not use/switch on outdoor electric appliances after the storm
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2014.