At least 35 people were killed and over 150 injured when a severe storm described by a weather expert as a ‘mini-cyclone’ ripped through Peshawar and two other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Sunday.
The death toll was feared to rise, warned Provincial Information Minister Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani. Areas along Charsadda road in Peshawar bore the brunt of the storm which was followed by hailstorm and heavy rain.
Two army battalions have been deployed in the affected areas for rescue and relief work. Reports said that 25 people were killed in Peshawar, six in Charsadda and four in Nowshera. Most of the deaths occurred in houses when roofs caved in and walls collapsed. The Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) could not cope with the increasing number of the injured and, therefore, fresh arrivals were taken to the Khyber Teaching Hospital. According to rescue sources, eight bodies were brought to the LRH. Slightly injured people were discharged. The minister said that relief agencies and municipal bodies had been engaged in rescue work and Chief Minister Pervez Khattak was supervising their activities. Met office said that the speed of the winds had reached about 110km per hour. The storm uprooted trees, blew away billboards, and damaged power transmission lines, causing a blackout. Many areas were without power in parts of Peshawar and Charsadda districts. A family lost six members, four of them children, in Wahid Garhi area of Peshawar when their house collapsed.
Doctors made urgent appeals for blood. People were seen taking the injured to hospitals in cars, vans, pick-ups and trucks. Ironically, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority issued a weather alert only at 7.35pm when the storm had already swept through the provincial capital and adjoining areas. “Mainly hot and dry weather is expected in most parts of the province. However rain and thunderstorm along with gusty winds are expected at isolated places in Malakand, Hazara and Peshawar divisions in the evening,” said the weather alert issued to the media.
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Mushtaq Ghani said that the administration had no prior information about the storm. He said that the storm was so severe that it tore apart a huge shed at the toll plaza on the motorway. Residential areas along Dalazak Road and Charsadda Road were badly affected, Bilal Ahmad, the spokesman for Rescue-1122 told Dawn.
He said that rescue teams had moved more than 40 injured people to the Lady Reading Hospital where an emergency was declared. Private ambulances were also called in to help the injured. The storm also uprooted tents at the Jalozai camp in Nowshera. Police said that a tree fell on a rickshaw, injuring six people. The storm also caused casualties and damaged property in different areas of Charsadda district. Police said that six people were killed and seven injured. Muazzam Ali, Muzammel, Niaz Ali and his wife and the wives of Havis Khan and Haider Khan were killed when roofs of their houses collapsed in Hassan Khel, Dualat Pura and Gharibabad areas. Injured people were taken to the district headquarters hospital.