Thousands flee Pakistan coast ahead of tropical storm

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis were fleeing to higher ground Tuesday to avoid a tropical cyclone that was expected to lash the coastline with torrential rains and high winds, officials said.

The Navy said it had sent a warship and two helicopters to search for two freighters and four small boats believed already caught up in the storm.

Cyclone Yemyin was expected to hit the coast of Baluchistan province on Tuesday afternoon, bringing gusting winds, heavy rain and a storm surge of up to 25 feet (7.5 meters).

Located on the same Arabian Sea coastline, Pakistan's largest city of Karachi was lashed by torrential rains and thunderstorms, which killed at least 228 people Saturday.

Rains and flooding also killed 38 people over the weekend in neighboring India, raising the death toll to 129 since the monsoon season set in four weeks ago, according to official reports.

In Pakistan, officials warned of coastal flooding, prompting many to flee in panic.

Most of the 120,000 residents of the southwestern port city of Gwadar moved to higher ground, Mayor Abdul Ghaffar Hoth said.

People from several smaller towns nearby loaded possessions onto camels or into cars and headed for the hills, he said.

"We have imposed an emergency in the district and asked the army and other forces to be on alert," Hoth said.

Qamaruz Zaman, director-general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, said the storm would bring up to 24 hours of heavy rainfall to the already saturated south coast.

In Karachi, city authorities were scurrying to repair power cables snapped by the storm, which have caused widespread power outages.

Enraged residents in the sweltering city took to the streets over the weekend to protest, torching vehicles and blocking major roads in the country's economic hub. One person was killed during the riots, police said.