Angry residents begin clean up in Karachi as rain lashes South Asia

A man cleans in front of shops in Pakistan's port city of Karachi, on Aug 31, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI (AFP) - Karachi residents began cleaning ruined homes and businesses on Monday (Aug 31) after catastrophic flooding sent rivers of filthy water cascading through Pakistan's largest city, while deadly monsoon weather continued to lash communities across South Asia.

Successive days of storms have exposed the longstanding failures of Karachi's neglected and overwhelmed drainage system, and residents used a welcome break in the rain to vent their fury at what they see as gross mismanagement of municipal resources.

"Everything got ruined in my basement, with about three metres of water inside. The water is a mix of rain and sewage water. It is the fifth day and we are suffering horribly," housewife Lubna Salman, who lives in an upscale Karachi neighbourhood managed by the military, told Agence France-Presse.

Ms Salman and other angry residents gathered outside local authority buildings to blast officials for failing to fix drainage problems in the city of 20 million people.

Municipal and military managers were "grossly incompetent" for neglecting the city's sewerage system, Ms Salman said.

The authorities did not immediately comment.

A record 230mm of rain fell in Karachi last week, compared to the average of 130mm for the time of year, according to the city's meteorological service.

Videos and images on social media regularly show builders dumping rubble into drainage canals, while shoddy new buildings are erected with scant regard for their effect on maxed-out sewer lines.

With a population of only 500,000 in 1947, Karachi has seen its population mushroom "without investing in invisible infrastructure (pipes and sewerage) for more than 30 years", Karachi-based urban planning professor Nauman Ahmed said.

During a single day last week, 18 Karachi residents died from flood-related incidents. The water was so deep in places that children were swimming in the streets.

More than 100 Pakistanis died in August because of the monsoon, which has also destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Rains and flooding have also swept India in recent days, killing scores of people.

In the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, at least 10 people died in rain-related incidents over the weekend, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

The Indian air force helped evacuate stranded villagers on Sunday (Aug 30), with images showing families being winched up in the badly affected Chindwara district.

Rescue workers and the army have evacuated more than 10,000 people in the state so far.

The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September, is essential for irrigating crops and replenishing water supplies across the Indian subcontinent, home to one-fifth of the world's population.

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