LAHORE: The rain-storm that lashed Karachi Saturday, followed by the cyclone that hit the Sindh and Balochistan coast Monday and Tuesday, has caused the loss of at least 250 lives.
Whereas no force known to man can prevent natural disaster, the fact remains that many of these deaths could have been prevented. HRCP is convinced the colossal damage to houses and the huge loss of life is largely a consequence of official indifference to the situation in which most citizens live, a lack of disaster readiness and poor relief efforts.
Most victims of the storms have been the impoverished, who live in inadequate houses that offer minimal protection. According to some initial estimates, every third house in the sprawling ‘katchi abadi’ of Orangi, housing many of Karachi’s poorest people, has been damaged. Those whose houses crumbled around them in heaps of mud and timber report receiving no official assistance or support.
The fact that the giant billboards that have destroyed the cityscape in all major centers claimed so many lives in Karachi is scandalous, as are the inadequacies of a power-supply mechanism which has collapsed entirely after the 45-minute storm, leaving citizens without electricity for hours or even days. The chaos that erupted in Karachi after the storm followed by panic across coastal areas of the country generated by the cyclone also belies a complete lack of disaster-readiness. Quite obviously, the pledges made in this regard after the October 2005 earthquake have remained unfulfilled and were only another of the lies rulers repeatedly tell citizens.
HRCP demands expansion of speedy relief to victims of the disaster, and that an independent body be set-up immediately in Sindh and Balochistan to assess damage on the spot and identify the factors behind it. These factors include long years of indifference to the deprived, and further loss of life in the storms that will inevitably come in the future can be averted only by addressing the basic needs of people.