At least 26 killed after heavy rains in Peshawar, Pakistan: officials

AFP , Sunday 26 Apr 2015

At least 26 people were killed and more than 180 injured Sunday after a storm struck Pakistan's northwest city of Peshawar causing dozens of buildings to collapse, officials said.

Fallen trees, rubble from buildings and mobile phone towers had blocked several main roads, an AFP reporter at the scene said, while flood water from torrential rainfall had reached three feet (one metre) deep in some parts of the city of more than three million people.

"The death toll has risen to 26 and 180 people have been injured," senior local government official Riaz Khan Mehsud told AFP. Dr Niaz Saeed, a senior police official, confirmed the figures.

Mushtaq Ali Shah, director of the provincial meteorological department, described the storm as a "mini cyclone with wind speeds of 110 kilometres per hour (68 miles per hour)".

He added the cyclone had lost speed but heavy rainfall was expected in the province's northern districts over the next three to four hours.

Mehsud meanwhile told AFP that rescue operations were being hampered by the blocked roads and disrupted communications due to the collapse of mobile towers.

The military was also called in to boost rescue efforts, equipped with ground penetrating radars, concrete cutters and sniffer dogs, according to a tweet by the army spokesman.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his grief over the loss of life and property.

"He extended condolences to the aggrieved families and asked provincial government and disaster management authorities to gear up rescue efforts so as to control the damage," a statement by his office said.

Safety standards, particularly in construction, are very lax in nuclear-armed but economically underdeveloped Pakistan.

Many of the more than 200 killed in last year's heavy monsoon rains died after roofs collapses.

Poor construction was blamed for the collapse of the Margalla Towers apartment block in Islamabad in a 2005 earthquake, killing 78 people.

The city of Peshawar is also at the forefront of Pakistan's battle against an Islamist insurgency that rose up in 2004 following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and the migration of Al Qaeda and Taliban militants to the country's border tribal areas.

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