Karachi could be 'wiped out' by tsunami: Pak officials

Pakistan's biggest city and its financial hub, Karachi faces the danger of being "wiped out" by a tsunami, officials warned on Wednesday.

Karachi: Pakistan's biggest city and its financial hub, Karachi faces the danger of being "wiped out" by a tsunami, officials warned on Wednesday.

The warning came after officials simulated drills of a major earthquake in the Indian ocean today and yesterday.

A Met official said the drills were designed to check an early warning system set up after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which left more than 230,000 people dead.

"These drill exercises were done with the help of the United Nations based on a hypothetical 9.0 magnitude earthquake near the Makran trench which is the meeting point for the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates off the coast of Pakistan," Muhammad Riaz a senior meteorologist said.

He said the simulated drills had shown that in the eventuality of a major earthquake it could create waves of 0.9 to seven metres high that could reach and devastate Karachi in a matter of hours.

Tauseef Alam, the chief meteorologist who supervised the simulated tests confirmed that the powerful waves could wipe out Karachi, home to around 20 million people.

He said in 1945, a tsunami had killed 4,000 people in Karachi.

"This could wipe out the city as the waves would be immensely powerful," he said.

"But now things have changed the weather patterns have changed global warming has started to take its toll and now the effects of a tsunami in the Indian Ocean could be much more devastating," he added.

He said the city was vulnerable since there was a chance another tsunami could take place in the same vicinity but it was difficult to say when this could happen.

He said if a tsunami happened the drill was aimed to ensure real time data is sent to the Met office in Karachi from Indonesian, Australian and Indian centres.

He said this could trigger an alarm and the team would start disseminating data to around a dozen disaster management departments to ensure early evacuation of people in the city.

"At the end of the day our task is to see we have an effective early warning system in place for a tsunami and to educate those at risk about safety preparedness and to improve our overall coordination," he said.

No official could confirm whether in such circumstances Karachi has a tsunami evacuation plan, or whether one would even be feasible in the sprawling metropolis.

Pakistan also straddles the boundary between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates, and has been hit by earthquakes more frequently in recent times.

In October, 2005, around 100,000 people were killed and millions left homeless when a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

In September last year, a 7.7-magnitude quake hit Awaran district in southwestern Balochistan province, killing 376 people and leaving 100,000 others homeless.  

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