PESHAWAR - At least 40 people were killed and over 200 injured Sunday evening as a heavy rain and thunderstorm struck parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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.

A house collapsed in Paha Ghulam area of Peshawar killing six people, including children, while a number of houses reportedly collapsed in Nasir Pur area of the city. A house collapsed in Wahid Garhi area on Charsadda Road, burying a family underneath. Six bodies, of a woman and her five children, had been recovered from the rubble, according to Lady Reading Hospital spokesperson Jamil Shah.

Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani confirmed the casualties to media and said that emergency had been declared in all hospital of the city and rescue teams dispatched to affected areas. He said that the casualties may increase as the condition of several injured was precarious. Health Minister Shehram Taraki visited Lady Reading Hospital and inquired after the injured.

The storm badly damaged the communication system and uprooted trees along roads causing traffic mess. The Motorway Tool Plaza was dismantled by strong winds and the fallen roof of tool plaza blocked the traffic on both side of the motorway. Senior local government official Riaz Khan Mehsud said 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. Rescue 1122 also set up three camps on Charsada Road, Dala Zak Road and Ring Road to deal with emergency cases and give on the spot treatment.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak expressed deep sense of grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives and properties caused by the storm and put on alert all the district administrations, hospitals and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) directing them to take all out efforts for mitigating the likelihood of any further loss.

In the wake of forecast of more rains in the country the chief minister asked the district administrations to provide provisional shelter to the affected people. He also directed the PDMA, Peshawar to take all necessary measures for relief and rehabilitation of rain-hit people on emergency basis. Khattak also asked the MPAs concerned to supervise the relief activities in their respective areas.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also 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 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.

Rescue teams had been dispatched to the affected areas to assist civil administration in the wake of devastating rains in Peshawar and other cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

The DG ISPR, in a statement in Rawalpindi, said the CMH had been put on alert with presence of doctors to treat the injured.