June 24, 2007 / 2:44 PM / in 11 years

Rains cause chaos in Pakistani city as 220 killed

KARACHI (Reuters) - Storms and torrential rain have killed more than 200 people in Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi, a provincial minister said on Sunday, and left angry residents without power.

“Now the total number of those killed because of rain is 228,” provincial Health Minister Sardar Ahmed told Reuters. “These deaths are caused by electrocution, falling trees, house collapses and road accidents.”

More bad weather is forecast for Pakistan and neighboring India, where dozens have died after prolonged downpours across the country in the last few days. Aid workers and military helicopters in India’s southern state of Andhra Pradesh were battling on Sunday to provide food for 200,000 people displaced by monsoon floods.

Karachi residents hurled stones at passing cars and power company vehicles and burned tires in protest at the power outage affecting most of the country’s commercial hub.

Low-lying neighborhoods were submerged after 17.7 millimeters (0.7 inches) fell on the city from Saturday. The rains were followed by a strong storm which uprooted trees and signboards and cut electricity wires.

Pakistani officials said hospitals in the sprawling city had reported 43 deaths, while a private welfare organization, Edhi Trust, had received the bodies of another 185 people.

Weather officials predicted more rains.

“There is a strong low pressure in the Arabian Sea, and we are expecting that it will now move along the coast and will intensify further,” said Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, Director General of Pakistan’s Meteorological Service.

“If it happens as we have predicted, it can cause heavy rainfall and gusty winds in the coastal areas of Sindh and Baluchistan over the next two days.”

UNUSUALLY SEVERE

Karachi residents said they had experienced prolonged power cuts for several weeks but that such severe weather was unusual.

“I have never seen such heavy winds blowing in Karachi before. It was very unusual and it was scary,” said Saima Qureshi, a resident of the Clifton area near the Arabian Sea.

Karachi’s power utility said it would restore the city’s electricity as quickly as possible.

“We are doing our best to restore the power supply, but ... the situation is very bad,” said spokesman Syed Sultan Hasan.

Thousands of people are killed across South Asia every year, and hundreds of thousands made homeless, by months of monsoon rains which are vital for farmers and the economy but which leave a trail of destruction in their wake.

In Andhra Pradesh, southern India, officials revised down the death toll from this weekend’s rains to 35, but said 24,000 houses had collapsed and 200,000 people were left homeless.

“Soldiers and naval helicopters have taken up rescue operations in Kurnool and Guntur districts ... where people are stranded on rooftops and up trees,” said Preeti Sudan, the state’s disaster management commissioner.

Heavy monsoon rains flooded homes and streets in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, where the century-old British-built drainage system failed to cope with the storm water.

Media reports said about 50 people had died in the rains in the western state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, over the past three days.

In the southwestern tourist state of Kerala about 20 people have been killed since Friday, many electrocuted by falling power lines or swept away by landslides.

In northern areas of Bangladesh, about 30 people have died of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases over the past week after the Brahmaputra river flooded.

(Additional reporting by Faisal Aziz in Karachi, a Reuters reporter in Hyderabad and Nizam Ahmed in Dhaka)

Writing by Zeeshan Haider, editing by Catherine Evans; Reuters Messaging: zeeshan.haider.reuters.com@reuters.net; +92-51-281 0017

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