Coastal people to commemorate victims of 1999 cyclone


KARACHI: Hundreds of fishermen and women will join the huge gathering near coastal area of Jati in Sujawal district on Monday to commemorate the victims of devastated cyclone 02A, which hit Sindh coastal area on May 19, 1999.
The cyclone knocked more than 300 villages scattered in the entire coastal zone of Thatta, Sujawal and Badin districts, sweeping makeshift shelters, in which 450 people were killed. 
At least 15000 houses were damaged by the stormy winds and high tides, pushing people to shift their families on different directions and stayed there for several days.
Noor Mohammed Thaimor, a community activist sharing his experiences said 450 people either had died or gone missing due to devastation. Parents of those whose people, bodies were not received are still upset.
The gathering is being organized by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), which has established a protection shelter in Village Qadirdino Bohrio, Jati. The community people will use the protection shelter in case of emergency in future. 
The area people and relatives of the victims remember their loved ones with simplicity every year by cooking and distribution of sweet rice among village children with prays for departed souls. But this year hundreds of people will join the gathering from all over the coastal areas, including Karachi to commemorate the victims and force the government to take precautionary measures to avoid human and property loss of the fishermen, farmers and herdsmen, because the area has been declared prone to disaster.
PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said despite tall claims by the government authorities there is no effective warning call mechanism, with fully equipped on fishing vessels so the crews may receive quick information to return back to safe places and avoid the loss.
The coastal people are already aware and live under the wooden-made shelters with raw food stuff to survive in storm winds for several days. But, Shah said, the government should initiate awareness raising among the local people how to adopt the strategy to minimise the impacts. Presently, despite fears there is no concept of keeping medical kits, food stuff and other equipment to avert the effects.
There are traditions that the coastal communities stay inside homes till the storm passed. These techniques should be made proper through community awareness about the protection measures, he said. It is must to build homes as per cyclone standard in the area and this can be achieved through effective campaign with local communities to develop understanding about these measures. 
Information collected through community activists reveals that there is no mechanism to provide speedy boats to the people residing at isolated island villages, who need quick support at the time of emergency to evacuate them timely. The government officials usually use traditional methods to spread warning calls, but they do not offer protection and evacuation support. 
Cyclones form in the Arabian Sea, mostly in May and June and then from September and October. Monsoon season plays a vital role for the formation of cyclone in this basin. The coastal people have become familiar to receive the warning calls frequently.
The 1999 cyclone affected Jati, Shah Bunder and Golarchi areas badly. But the local people in Keti Bunder and Kharo Chhan say they had also experienced the effects during the high waves of cyclone hit their areas. 
There is no count of damaged boats, harvested nets and the fishermen, who were in the open sea during the disaster and there is no news about their fortune. 
The community elders, who lost their loved ones in the disaster, are silent when they are asked about the compensation or any help they have received from the government.
It is the common understanding of the local community elders, who say that We need nothing from the government but the protection mechanisms should be strengthened in the vulnerable areas. Cyclones, sea storms and high tides have caused colossal loss to the local resources, specially the ruined the soil fertility and grazing fields. 
The area elders link the hope to the protection shelters, which have been developed by PFF to use in case of sea storms.  The fishermen of Jati pay more price of negligence by the government. They usually take risk of going to open sea for fish catch where the Indian border forces arrest them with boats and fishing tools and put them in jails.

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