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Last Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007, 19:46 GMT 20:46 UK
The human cost of Karachi's storm
By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Karachi resident Ali Nawaz in the wreckage
Ali Nawaz is sleeping on the street as his house is unstable
Ten-year old Mohammad Baseer is digging out unbroken cement blocks from the debris of his house in Karachi to raise a temporary compound wall.

A strong wind lashes against the frail, single-storey houses in the street, blowing sand in his face.

"My father had to go to work because we have to eat, and we need money for cement blocks and sheets to repair the house," he says, wiping sand from his eyes.

City officials say 76 people are confirmed to have died in the storm that hit the southern port city on Saturday but a non-governmental welfare organisation, the Edhi Foundation, says it collected 213 dead bodies from various parts of the city with injuries to the head or upper torso.

An additional 45 bodies were taken to the city's various hospitals.

Most deaths were caused by falling trees, hoardings and billboards, or by collapsing roofs and walls. Some victims were electrocuted as many trees and billboards also fell on electric wires.

Krishan Lal
The administrator's office hasn't told me when I will receive (compensation) funds
Krishan Lal, flood survivor
Gadap, one of Karachi's 18 town districts and also its poorest, appeared to have been worst hit.

"At least 22 people have been killed and more than 1,000 houses collapsed partially or completely in the area," says town official Murtaza Baloch.

Nearly 300 people suffered injuries when their walls collapsed or their roofs caved in.

People have been flocking to a medical relief camp set up by the town administration in a modestly-sized shelter.

As politicians gather at the camp for photo opportunities, an elderly woman, sitting on the floor some distance away and surrounded by relatives, wails for her 20-year-old daughter who has just died after receiving injuries to her chest and hips.

Woman who lost a loved one in the flood

The woman's daughter had been asleep when the roof of the house caved in. Her body was partially crushed, but she was still alive when the neighbours dug her out.

Outside the camp, the gusting wind is threatening to blow away some more roofs.

"My wife and children have moved to a neighbour's house for the time being, and I am sleeping on that raised ground out there beside the road," says Ali Nawaz, 45, a small-time junk dealer.

Saturday's windstorm cut right across his courtyard, razing the two opposite walls to the ground. It also blew away part of his roof, leaving cracks in the structure.

Destroyed billboards, Karachi
Poorer areas of the city were hardest hit
"It is risky to sleep in there, given the kind of winds that are blowing these days," he says.

Syed Nasim Jafri, 60, a former press photographer, also lost his compound wall, while two rooms in the house developed cracks.

"The widow of my brother lived next door, but as you can see, her house is completely gone, and the family has moved in with us. Neighbours have been good to us, but we are too many, and women cannot sleep out in the open. We have to take the risk."

Most people in Gadap were born and raised in Karachi. But Krishan Lal, 25, moved to the city just days before the storm.

"I found a job at the fruit market and brought my wife and three-year-old son from Hyderabad 10 days ago. Both of them died when the wall of the house we were staying in collapsed," he says.

He took the bodies to Hyderabad on Sunday for cremation, and was back in Karachi on Monday in the hope of getting compensation money promised by the city authorities.

"The government has announced compensation of 50,000 rupees [$835] for each victim. But the administrator's office hasn't told me when I will receive the funds," he says.


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