Cyclone ravages southern Pakistan
700 people missing after tidal waves sweep away villages
KARACHI, Pakistan, May 21— (Associated Press) Bedraggled residents of coastal villages slogged through mud and water to reach higher ground Friday after a deadly cyclone battered the Arabian Sea coast, leaving hundreds of people missing. Army officers and aid workers said it still was too early to tell whether the missing had sought shelter elsewhere or had drowned, emergency workers said, but many were presumed dead.
Government officials estimated 700 people were missing. Rescue workers were trying to reach the hardest hit areas, but floodwaters were making progress slow, officials said under customary condition of anonymity.
'DAMAGE IS TREMENDOUS'
"People from the area are arriving and it sounds like the damage is tremendous, " said Dr. Mumtaz Uqali, reached by telephone Friday in the cyclone damaged area of Thatta, 50 miles from Karachi. Communications with much of the area has been completely cut off, and telephone lines were down, officials said.
"People are saying entire villages are missing, but the district administration is still trying to get there so no one really knows," he said.
Thursday's deadly cyclone whipped across Pakistan's coast, causing huge waves that pulverized villages where homes are made mostly of mud and straw.
Survivors sat knee-deep in mud where their homes once stood, seemingly unable to move. Others gathered their belongings and climbed through the debris to reach higher ground. Residents of nearby undamaged villages arrived with rice and bread to feed the victims.
ARMY SENDS AID
The army has ordered 300 soldiers to the devastated region to set up emergency aid camps. Their first priority will be to locate the missing and assess the damage, said an army spokesman, who can't be identified under usual briefing rules.
A privately run emergency services company, Edhi Emergency Services, sent a helicopter to the area to try to assess the damage.
The hurricane was lashing the coast with rain and winds of up to 170 mph when it went aground 45 miles east of the provincial capital of Karachi, said Akhtar Qayyum Saddiqi, director of the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics.
The country's largest city, Karachi, experienced high winds, but the brunt of the cyclone was felt farther east, toward neighboring India.
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Cyclone batters Pakistan coast
Hundreds missing; many feared dead
The Boston Globe, May 21, 1999
By Mohammed Farooq, Associated Press, 05/21/99
KETI BANDER, Pakistan - A cyclone battered fishing villages on Pakistan's southern coast yesterday, whipping the region with winds of 170 miles an hour and causing tidal waves that deluged thousands of homes. Hundreds of people were reported missing and many were presumed dead.
As residents slept at 4 a.m. local time yesterday, the cyclone tore into the Arabian Sea coast near Gharo, 25 miles east of Karachi, causing a swath of damage from Gharo about 50 miles east toward the Indian border.
In Keti Bander, a fishing village 25 miles southeast of Gharo where many mud homes were pulverized, residents clung to each other amid a mess of debris and water.
Some sat knee-deep in mud where their homes once stood, seemingly unable to move. Others gathered their belongings and slogged through the waste to reach higher ground.
Mohammed Sadiq struggled with his two children and wife to reach dry land. ''We lost everything,'' he said. ''I don't know what we can do.''
Residents of nearby undamaged villages arrived with rice and bread to feed the victims. But floodwaters and fierce rains kept people away from the hardest-hit areas.
Local residents said at least 100 fishermen on their boats when the cyclone struck were missing and presumed drowned. Government officials, who have been unable to reach many of the hardest-hit areas, estimate the missing at about 700, many presumed dead.
The exact death toll will not be known until rescue workers reach the worst-hit areas, which are still underwater, officials said.
One resident of Gharo, Ahmed Baksh, said the devastation was horrific. Hundreds of villages have disappeared, he said.
This story ran on page A11 of the Boston Globe on 05/21/99.
Search on for 1,000 missing in cyclone-hit southern Pakistan
Agence France-Presse, May 24, 1999
KARACHI, May 24 (AFP) - Rescue workers searched Monday for more than 1,000 people still missing after a cyclone last week devastated southern Pakistan's coast, as the death toll rose to 231, officials and rescuers said.
Six more bodies were recovered five days after the cyclone ravaged a wide coastal belt in southern Sindh province. Officials said around 550 people marooned by floods had been airlifted by army helicopters or rescued by navy boats since late Sunday after the water receded.
There were also scenes of joy when 250 fishermen, previously presumed dead, were also evacuated, army spokesman Colonel Ashfaq Hussain said. When they returned to their Ahmed Raju village "they hugged each other and many danced with joy," he said.
"We thought, we would not see life again," an official from the navy rescue team quoted the fisherman as saying.
The official, describing the havoc caused by Thursday's cyclone, said damaged boats were lying upside down, destroyed huts were submerged and cattle buried in the mud.
"We have geared up the relief and rescue work and things will improve in a day or two," Colonel Hussain said. He said troops had restored electricty in several towns and were repairing the communication system as the cyclone subsided.
Acccording to officials some 100 people died in the two fishing villages of Malik Raj and Jati alone. An army spokesman on Sunday put the number of missing at more than 1,000 based on a survey of local chiefs in affected towns and villages by army teams.
"At least 30 percent of the property, cattle and personal belongings have been either washed away or destroyed in the worst-hit Thatta and Badin districts," the spokesman said.
More than 9,000 army and navy personnel along with medical teams are engaged in relief and rescue operations in Badin and Thatta districts. Helicopters and navy divers are helping to evacuate marooned villagers.
Thursday's cyclone hit 150,000 people. Many villages remain cut off and around 15,000 villagers, mostly fishermen, have been sheltered in 23 relief camps, according to officials.
The cyclone caused massive destruction in Thatta, Badin and Ketty Bandar districts, where at least 600 villages were hit and extensive damage was inflicted on rice and sugar-cane crops, they said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his second inspection tour of the affected areas on Monday visited the worst-hit Raj Malik town, officials in Thatta said.
The central government has allocated around one million dollars for relief efforts, besides sending emergency supplies. Officials said about 50,000 houses and huts were damaged and around 152,000 acres (60,800 hectares) of farmland had been seriously damaged and probably made temporarily uncultivable.
Fishermen's representatives urged the authorities to help equip fishing boats with radio sets to warn of impending storms, with the Sindh government also coming under criticism from newspapers and politicians.
The damage and loss of life caused by the cyclone could have been avoided if the provincial government had taken more seriously advance warnings issued by the meteorological department, The Nation daily said.
Abdul Wahid Soomro, a provincial legislator from Thatta district, also accused the central government of giving a meagre response to the disaster.
Sharif should allocate more funds for the affected people instead of spending money on the current celebrations marking the first anniversary of Pakistan's nuclear tests, said Soomro, an ally of former premier and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
Pakistan cyclone toll rises to 160 dead
Agence France-Presse, May 23, 1999
CHAUR JAMALI, Pakistan, May 23 (AFP) - The death toll from a cyclone which battered southern Pakistan rose to 160 early Sunday, officials and local rescue workers said.
A magistrate in this coastal town said 51 bodies, most of them fishermen, were recovered from the sea. However local rescue workers said about 100 bodies had been found.
Another nine bodies were found in a village near Chaur Jamalai, the magistrate, Qazi Jan Mohammad, told AFP. Rescue workers said 21 bodies were found in nearby Jati and Dandhal coastal towns.
The governor of Sindh province, Moeenudding Haider, confirmed 85 deaths and said the death toll "could be higher as rescue workers could not reach some places." Witnesses said some of the bodies of fishermen were found at sea while others, buried in mud, were recovered by army and navy personnel after the water receded.
Officials earlier confirmed 20 deaths in Badin and Thatta districts in the wake of Thursday's cyclone that hit a string of towns and villages along the southern coast, causing widespread devastation.