Cyclone warning puts Sindh on alert

KARACHI: As forecasters posted rain warnings and a cyclone watch for parts of Sindh, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Saturday declared an emergency in coastal towns.

The decision came hours after the Pakistan Meteorological Department issued a cyclone alert after a depression formed in the southeast Arabian Sea started to intensify, predicting rainfall and gusty winds in part of the province between May 17-20.

The department said the depression has intensified into Tropical Cyclone Tauktae and lay centered at a distance of about 1,460 kilometers south-southeast of Karachi.

“Maximum sustained winds around the system centre are 70-90kmph [kilometer per hour], gusting to 100kmph. The system is likely to intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm during next 12-18 hours and move in north-northwest direction and reach Indian Gujarat by the morning of May 18,” it said.

“A control room be established at the chief secretary’s office for smooth coordination […] in respect of their [districts] requirements and giving them necessary instruction on behalf of the government,” Shah said.

The cyclone could become one of the strongest to threaten parts of western India and eastern Pakistan in more than two decades, The Weather Channel reported.

Given an ample supply of warm — about 88 degrees Fahrenheit — deep ocean water, humid air, and low wind shear, Tauktae could rapidly intensify into the equivalent of a formidable hurricane over the weekend.

Widespread rain-dust and thunderstorms with few heavy to very heavy falls and gusty winds of 70-90 kilometers per hour are likely to occur in Thatta, Badin, Thar, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot, and Sanghar districts, the alert said.

“Rain-dust/thunderstorm with few heavy falls and gusty winds of 40-60kmph also likely in Karachi, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Dadu from May 18 to May 20.”

“Sea conditions will be rough to very rough and fishermen are advised not to venture in the sea between May 16 and May 20,” the Met department advised.

Cyclones in Pakistan are rare. Only four cyclones of at least tropical storm strength have tracked within 70 miles of Karachi in records dating to 1902. A weakening Cyclone Phet was the last to do so as a tropical storm, then depression, in 2010.

But Pakistan’s strongest cyclone was the aforementioned 1999 landfall southeast of Karachi near the India border at Category 3 intensity and wind speeds of 119 to 157 kilometer per hour.

According to the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an estimated 6,200 were killed in Pakistan from storm surge and heavy rain, despite warnings from the government.

In a separate notification, the department also issued a heatwave warning for Karachi from May 16 to May 17.

“Hot/very hot weather is likely to occur during the next two days. Day time maximum temperature may rise to 40-42 degrees Celsius and winds likely to blow from northeast/east especially on May 16 and May 17.

“Tropical cyclone (Tauktae) has formed […] at a distance about 1,460km south-southeast of Karachi. Maximum sustained wind around the centre 70-90kmph gusting to 100kmph,” it said.

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