Flash floods caused by unprecedented monsoon rains have engulfed large parts of Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi, shutting down businesses, shops and markets.
The government of southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, announced a holiday to tackle what it called a “disaster-like” situation. At least 15 people have been killed in rain-related accidents, Sohail Rajput, Karachi’s commissioner, said by phone. The Pakistan Stock Exchange continued trading.
Murad Ali Shah, the provincial chief minister, urged people to stay home as troops and rescue officials evacuated citizens from submerged parts of the city of 22 million. Local television channels showed footage of flood waters gushing through roads, streets and homes. Shah told Geo television water has receded from most parts of the city. Prime Minister Imran Khan also directed officials to help the stranded people.
More nationwide rains are predicted on Friday, the Pakistan Meteorological Department said on its website. The weather office recorded a total of 345 millimeters of rain in August so far, breaking the previous record of 298 millimeters in the month, according to the office of the Sindh chief minister.
Pakistan hasn’t experienced monsoon floods this bad since 2010. That rainfall left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and destroyed infrastructure and crops valued at about $10 billion, the Asian Development Bank said at the time. This year, monsoon rains have mostly caused damage to the southern cities. Pakistan Refinery said earlier this week it may have to shut operations because of damage to oil pipelines.
Qamar-uz-Zaman, an adviser to both the Asian Development Bank and International Union for Conservation of Nature based in Islamabad, attributed the record-breaking rains to climate change, adding the country seen extreme weather patterns since 2010. Some local media blamed Karachi’s poor urban planning for the extensive damage, saying the rains had exposed the metropolitan city’s infrastructural deficiencies and choked waterways.
It’s difficult to determine what’s caused the record rainfall this year, said Omair Ahmad, the editor of thethirdpole.net, an online platform focuses on the ecology, environment and climate of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas.
“We do know that floods are more likely because of climate change and at the same time urban infrastructure in South Asia is badly designed for this onslaught,” he said. “Poor countries, battered by climate change impacts, have fewer resources to build climate resilient infrastructure.”