KARACHI: In a fresh alert issued on Wednesday afternoon, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said that the very severe cyclonic storm (VSCS) Biparjoy has changed its direction moving further away from Karachi.
“Under the existing upper-level steering winds, the VSCS Biparjoy started to recurve North-northeastward and [will] likely cross between Keti Bandar (Southeast Sindh) and Indian Gujarat coast on the evening of June 15 as a VSCS with packing winds of 100-120 Km/hour gusting 140 km/hour,” stated the Met department.
“PMD’s cyclone warning center, Karachi is continuously monitoring the system and will issue update accordingly,” it added.
Notably, while the alert issued at 11:50am this morning reported the cyclone to be about 340km south-southwest of Karachi, 355km south-southwest Thatta and 275km south-southwest of Keti Bandar, the fresh warning recorded the distance of about 370km south-southwest of Karachi, 355km south-southwest Thatta and 290km south-southwest of Keti Bandar.
According to the PMD, presently the maximum sustained surface winds stand at 150-160 Km/hour gusts with 180 Km/hour around the system centre. Meanwhile, sea conditions have been recorded as being phenomenal around the system centre with a maximum wave height of 30 feet.
The favourable environmental conditions (sea surface temperature of 29-30°C, low vertical wind shear and upper-level divergence) are in support to sustain its strength through the forecast period.
Earlier today, light rain was reported from some areas in Karachi as rain bands and strong winds approached Karachi as the cyclone continued to make its way to Sindh’s coastal areas.
Rain was also been reported in Gharo, Keti Bandar and adjoining areas in Thatta district.
The VSCS of Category 3 is expected to make landfall tomorrow (Thursday) evening between Karachi and Mandvi in India’s Gujarat, with winds of approximately 140-150 kilometres per hour (km/h) and gusts up to 170 km/h.
According to the latest forecast, the cyclone is expected to maintain a northward trajectory until the morning of June 14 and then it is likely to re-curve eastward and make its landfall between Keti Bandar in Thatta district and the Indian Gujarat coastline.
The areas likely to be impacted include Thatta, Badin, Sajawal, Tharparkar, Karachi, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot, Hyderabad, Ormara, Tando Allahyar and Tando Mohammad Khan, according to weather experts.
Speaking to journalists today, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said that ‘right now Pakistan’s coastline is clearly earmarked for landfall, particularly an area called Keti Bandar, part of the district of Thatta which is located near the tip of the Sir Creek area.”
“We are now looking at June 15, which is tomorrow, for actual landfall in that area. The trajectory for Cyclone Biparjoy that we have projected is on path. It is going north-east and it seems that it will take a hard right even further east which means it will go past the megacity of Karachi with a very high population density,” the minister told reporters.
She said that through these projections the government will be able to plot how far the evacuations currently underway need to be carried. “We have already instituted 75 evacuation camps in the coastal areas and we have already moved populations of about 62,000 over the last two days.
“Evacuations which are peaceful yet mandatory have been ongoing. There will be voluntary evacuations in the city of Karachi which is not directly in the eye of the storm like the coastal areas but it is certainly going to feel the brunt of high-velocity winds and rainfall.
“There is always a fallout from such heavy cyclonic activity so in all our cities in the south, the government of Sindh is making sure that they are bracing for this shock,” she added. “We have prepared well in time, despite restricted resources.”
Expressing her gratitude towards all the international satellite centres for their support to the government, the minister said that a “concerted and coordinated effort is being led by the government of Sindh, the federal government as well as that of Balochistan that is being supported by all our military and Rangers”.
At one point the minister also revealed that the government was looking at what “very basic” action was required such as cancelling flights, which she said consisted of only small aircrafts for the time being.
“We are simultaneously focused on relief efforts,” she said, stressing that “the areas that will face landfall and the brunt of the storm are the same areas that took the major impact of the megafloods of 2022 that inundated a third of Pakistan.
“These are areas that have barely recovered from the last climate-induced disaster, their soil is completely saline, there are large pools of water still sitting there, and it is below sea level,” she exclaimed.
“We will also be facing concerted heatwaves. Obviously, the ocean temperatures are high as well as the sea levels. These are all offsets and direct impacts of climate emergencies — I would not call it climate change anymore.”
According to the Sindh government’s reports, a total of 64,107 people have been shifted to safe places from Thatta, Sajawal and Badin districts so far.
“In total, about 86.23 per cent of people have been shifted from the three districts,” stated a report submitted to Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah.
The report stated that out of the 13,000 population of Keti Bandar, 10,000 have been relocated by the administration while 3,000 people have moved voluntarily.
Similarly, out of the 9,000 population of Shahbandar, 830 have been shifted to a safe place by the administration, while out of 5,000 in Ghorabari, 3500 were transferred by the administration while 1,500 people moved voluntarily.
Meanwhile, out of the 8,070 population of Jati, 1,727 have been moved by the administration while 3 thousand people have moved voluntarily. Another 3000 people have been moved by the administration in Kharo Chan while 2000 of them evacuated voluntarily.
Out of the 12,300 affected population of Badin, 3,010 have been relocated by the administration while 5,600 have moved voluntarily and out of the 19,038 population of Shaheed Fazil Rahu, 14310 people have been shifted by the administration while 5160 people have moved voluntarily.
The report submitted to the CM also revealed that 37 relief camps have been established in the three districts alone.
CM Shah was also informed that presently 10 boats of the Pakistan Navy are working, one of which is a big boat with a capacity of 400 people. One batch of evacuees has already been shifted safely, while a second consignment is set to transport the evacuees to Sajawal camps.
To speed up the process of evacuations, the report stated, more 400-capacity boats are being arranged. Nonetheless, at least 3,000-4,000 individuals were transported to safety by this morning alone.
In light of the approaching Biparjoy Cyclone, the Pakistan Army has been actively engaged in relief operations to mitigate its impact. The primary objective is to ensure the safety and well-being of the affected population.
Efforts to relocate residents to secure locations near the coastal belt are currently underway with utmost urgency. This process is being conducted with the utmost vigor to swiftly move people away from vulnerable areas and into safer surroundings.