At least 37 people were killed and dozens more were injured when a heavy thunderstorm hit Pakistan’s eastern province of Punjab, news reports said on Saturday.
Lahore was worst hit, with 11 people including six children killed in the provincial capital. Seven people were killed and 60 injured in the neighbouring district of Sheikhupura. Nineteen deaths occurred in other districts of Punjab.
Most of the casualties were caused by falling roofs or walls and road accidents. Winds with a speed of 93 kilometres per hour uprooted trees and destroyed power lines, cutting the power supply for hours in Punjab, The News International newspaper reported.
Landfall likely near Karachi
The deaths occurred as the country’s southern coastal belt was preparing for Cyclone Phet to make landfall after hitting the coast of Oman on Friday. The cyclone was expected to make landfall near the commercial hub Karachi and in the nearby province of Baluchistan on Sunday with “maximum sustained winds of 100 to 120 kilometers per hour,” Pakistan’s Meteorological Department said.
The storm has already started to create havoc in Baluchistan, which saw 133 millimetres of rainfall during the last 24 hours and flooding in some areas, the department reported on Saturday. Authorities are evacuating tens of thousands of people to safe areas and the country’s army and navy have been put on alert.
Phet, already weakened from earlier this week, was positioned about 200 kilometers north—east of Oman’s coastal city of Sur and 650 kilometers south—west of Karachi, the Indian Meteorological Department said in a Saturday morning bulletin.
“Available observations and numerical weather prediction models guidance suggest that the system would weaken further and move east—north—eastward towards Pakistan coast,” the IMD bulletin said.
Widespread rainfall expected in Gujarat
The cyclone, located 850 kilometers north—west of India’s Gujarat state, was expected to bring widespread rainfall in coastal Gujarat over the next 24 hours accompanied by squally winds. Sea conditions off the north Gujarat coast was expected to be rough and fishermen had been advised not to venture out.