Heavy rains continued to lash Sindh relentlessly on Tuesday, taking the death toll to 270, as authorities scrambled to cope with rising flood waters, and the UN prepared to launch a flash appeal for international assistance.
“At least 270 people have died so far because of falling roofs, drowning in flood waters and outbreak of diseases,” said Sajjad Haider Shah, a disaster management official in Sindh.
That figure is expected to rise though, given that 300,000 flood-affected people have so far reported with different illnesses at medical camps across the province, according to statistics released by the department on Tuesday.
Tuesday witnessed heavy spells of rains across the province with Karachi, Mithi, Dadu, Tandojam, Sakrand, Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas, each receiving between 100 and 190 mm of rain.
Chief meteorologist Mohammad Riaz said the figures were a 51-year record, and the rains would continue for the rest of the week.
Pakistan’s meteorological department says average rainfall across Sindh is three times normal, with the worst-affected districts of Badin, Mirpurkhas and Thar seeing eight times the usual levels.
This year’s rains, though concentrated in Sindh, have already affected 5.3 million people and 1.2 million homes in the province’s 23 districts, with 1.7 million acres of arable land inundated according to the National Disaster Management Authority’s (NDMA) initial assessment.
Over 12,000 heads of cattle have perished while millions have been displaced, added Sindh minister for livestock Abid Hussain Jatoi.
“Mirpurkhas, Tharparker, Badin and Khairpur are the worst affected districts for livestock,” he added.
UN flash appeal
The United Nations (UN) would launch a formal flash appeal for meeting the financial requirements of early relief phase in flood-affected areas of Sindh, possibly before the end of September, sources in the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) told The Express Tribune.
The UN has already launched a rapid needs assessment and officials from the organization and its allied agencies have completed visits to the affected districts.
“On the basis of rapid needs assessment, the UN will launch a flash appeal to seek global financial assistance for Pakistan,” confirmed the local UN spokesperson Ishrat Rizvi.
The rapid assessment report is expected to be completed within one week, she added.
Last year, the UN had made a $1.9 billion appeal for early relief and recovery phases. Against the overall appeal, around 70% pledges were materialised by international donors, Rizvi said.
The need for the flash appeal was triggered after the government declared that it would not be able to handle the catastrophe within its own limited resources.
This is the second flash appeal being launched by the UN, the first one issued after last year’s super floods which killed 2,000 people, left a fifth of the country under water and affected around 21 million people.
Local officials, however, say devastation in the province is worse than last year.
The UN’s World Food Programme agency is working to provide emergency supplies to half a million people while the United States said it is sending food aid for nearly 350,000 and medical assistance for about 500,000 people.
Head of the prime minister’s committee on rain damage Qamar Zaman Kaira expressed his discontent over rescue and relief operations being carried out in rain-affected areas.
More than 5.5 million people have been affected in lower Sindh and the majority of the people are still stranded in their areas, he said while addressing a joint press conference at the Chief Minister House on Tuesday.
Admitting the inadequacy of the government’s response, Kaira said that “only 80,000 tents have been provided to the rain victims while the rest have been living without any shelter.”
“It has disappointed us,” he said, adding that the government has contacted tent manufacturing companies to provide an additional four to five thousand tents.
Separately, EAD officials said that the government can provide up to 93,000 tents while the country immediately needs another 100,000.
Kaira said that they would hold another meeting on Wednesday to finalise relief and rescue efforts.
Senators step up
Senate Deputy Chairman Jan Muhammad Jamali constituted two special committees, procurement and distribution headed by Senators Seemen Yusuf Siddiqui and Sardar Ali Khan respectively, to work for flood victims in Sindh.
Senator Haji Ghulam Ali was deputed to coordinate with the chambers of commerce across the country for fund raising while, the special committees will arrange for 6,000 bags containing food items on an emergency basis.
The senators raised an amount of Rs11.4 million on Tuesday while lawmakers also extended donations of Rs25,000 each from their next month salary. Some senators, however, asked for the donation to be reduced to Rs10,000, citing non-affordability.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT BY HAFEEZ TUNIO IN KARACHI, ZAHID GISHKORI IN ISLAMABAD AND AGENCIES.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2011.