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Misery for millions as the monsoon rocks the Pakistani port city

#Misery #millions #monsoon #rocks #Pakistani #port #city

Shazad Akbar carried his four-year-old daughter on his shoulders on Tuesday as he and his wife waded through knee-deep water that inundated a street in Surjani, a poor part of the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

His wife fell ill overnight, but Akbar was unable to take her to a doctor as heavy monsoon rains fell until morning, bringing misery to the city of 15 million.

“I can only manage to get out now,” Shazad told AFP while his burqa-clad wife hid behind him.

The monsoons, which typically last from June to September, are essential for irrigating crops and filling lakes and dams across the Indian subcontinent, but they also bring a wave of destruction each year.

This year’s monsoons are being felt most severely in cities, where poor infrastructure and services are causing clogged drains and sewers — and the collapse of the sewage system.

The result is widespread flooding, particularly in low-lying areas and usually in poor neighborhoods.

In Rahim Goth, a slum in the west of the city, locals tried to draw water from their huts and dwellings with buckets, pots and jugs.

But their efforts seemed in vain as they already dumped the contents several feet into the streets.

– climate change –

Sardar Sarfaraz, director of Pakistan’s Meteorological Department, told AFP that an “unprecedented” 568 millimeters (22.3 inches) of rain fell in the city this month — nearly triple Karachi’s recent averages and more than four times what it was before two decades.

Environmentalist Arif Zubair acknowledged that the monsoons can regularly wreak natural havoc, but is clear about what is to blame for the worsening situation – climate change.

“(It) has taken hold of all of South and Southeast Asia,” he told AFP on Tuesday.

“The recent (heavy) rains were certainly an indicator of global climate change.”

According to environmental NGO Germwatch, Pakistan ranks eighth on a list of countries most vulnerable to extreme weather conditions caused by climate change.

But the effects of climate change are also being exacerbated by the mismanagement and negligence of authorities and policymakers, who critics accuse of failing to recognize the problems ahead.

The Karachi coast is particularly prone to flooding as the city has expanded with sparse planning in a landscape unsuitable for urban development.

“We are sitting on a climate bomb,” said Arif.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), more than 300 people have died this year as a result of heavy monsoon rains, which also washed away more than 600 kilometers of roads and 50 bridges.

More than 10,000 homes were said to have been damaged – with Balochistan province being the worst hit.

In Rahim Goth, many residents have taken to the rooftops to escape the floods, stretching tarpaulins between poles to provide shelter from the incessant rain.

“People (officials) come to inquire about us every year, but every year we are doomed,” Afsari Bano told AFP as she tried to cook a family dinner.

She said most of the family’s possessions — furniture, bedding and other possessions — were destroyed by flooding two years ago and have only just recovered.

Now she was surrounded by water with soiled diapers and other trash floating in it.

“Now swarms of flies and mosquitoes will follow,” said the 50-year-old housewife.

“When someone dies – Allah forbid that life and death are in their hands – it is almost impossible to hold a funeral.”

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