LAHORE/CHITRAL/QUETTA/KARACHI: Six people lost their lives and two others suffered injuries as a cold wave caused by moderate rain and snowfall gripped different parts of the country on Saturday.
The weather system responsible for rain in Karachi over the past two days centred on Balochistan on Saturday, leaving many areas of the province blanketed with snow.
Described by meteorologists as a westerly wave, the weather system was predicted to enter northern parts of the country late on Saturday night and stay there till Wednesday, providing much-needed rain for crops in the plains and snow on the hills.
In Karachi, the weather turned cold as the rainfall continued for the second day on Saturday. The unexpected rain exposed the vulnerability of the city’s electricity supply system because of which at least six people were electrocuted over the past two days, including four on Saturday. The city’s outdated drainage infrastructure left key roads and several areas flooded.
At least six die from electrocution in Karachi over the past two days
The Met office has forecast rain for Sunday in Karachi and Lahore and rain and snowfall in Quetta and Peshawar.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah visited various parts of the city to examine the problems being faced by citizens and conceded that the city’s draining capacity was not up to the mark. “However, it has become better…the cleaning of nullahs and removal of encroachments has helped a great deal.”
Trade activity in Karachi came to a halt and factory output plummeted by between 50 per cent and 80pc in various industrial areas as a large number of employees failed to show up to work, mainly because of the unavailability of public transport.
There was light rain in some districts in Punjab including Layyah, Jhang, Multan, Bhakkar, Sargodha, Dera Ghazi Khan, Khanpur and Rahim Yar Khan.
Thousands of passengers were stranded in subzero temperature in the Lowari Pass area since Friday night as they were waiting for their turn to cross an under-construction tunnel that has been affected by snowfall.
A two-year-old boy suffering from pneumonia died after the vehicle he was in remained stranded for several hours. He had been referred to a hospital in Peshawar and an official at the Asherat police post told Dawn that his family had crossed the Mirkhani checkpoint at around 11pm on Friday and reached the Lowari tunnel, located 13km away, in the morning.
Heavy snowfall was reported in the mountainous areas of Malakand and Hazara divisions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Parachinar and other areas of Fata.
An official said the lowest temperature was recorded in Kalam, Swat Valley, where the mercury plunged to minus 10 degrees Celsius.
In Balochistan, heavy snowfall led to suspension of power in several districts, including Quetta. Two people were reported injured in a snow-related incident in the border town of Chaman. Hundreds of vehicles were stranded on snowed-up highways.
The Khojak Pass, through which supplies go to the US troops stationed in Afghanistan, was snowed up as was the Quetta-Chaman highway linking Pakistan with Afghanistan. “We have deployed Levies and other staff to clear the highway and restore traffic,” said Kalat Commissioner Hashim zKhan Ghalzai.
Residents of Quetta visited the Hana and Urak valleys to enjoy snowfall. There was a heavy traffic jam in both valleys located some 20km from Quetta.
According to reports, there was over two feet of snowfall in Barboi, a hill station near Kalat, along with the Ziarat Valley, Khanozai and some other areas. The Quetta Valley was blanketed by eight inches of snow.
The four mountains surrounding the Quetta Valley — Chiltan, Zarghoon, Takato and Murdar — were snow-capped on Saturday.
A girl died and another was injured when the roof of their house in Khuzdar town caved in because of heavy rain.