PESHAWAR: The death toll from the country’s worst floods in years topped 1,100 on Sunday as outbreaks of water-borne disease emerged and survivors sought refuge from the raging torrents.
More than 1,100 people have been killed and over 1.5 million affected by monsoon rains, flash floods and landslides in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and at least another 47 have died in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.
“The floods have killed more than 1,100 people in different parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and affected over 1.5 million,” K-P Information Minister Mian Iftikhar said on Sunday. Earlier, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt. General (Retd) Nadeem Ahmed said that approximately 2.5 million people had been displaced in flood-hit areas across the country.
A look at the destruction caused in the worst-hit districts of Charsadda and Nowshera reveals that most of the infrastructure has been destroyed in these areas. There is also anger at the fact that most were caught unawares.
“Why weren’t we informed about the flood if it was to hit us so badly?” fumed Saeed, a resident of Isaar Banda, Charsadda, who was upset that because no relief had reached him for last four days.
In Swat and Shangla alone more than 350 people died in the heavy flooding. Two tourists were killed by floods in the scenic valley of Kalam while in Nowshera 18 more bodies were recovered on Sunday.
The people who have managed to relocate to camps established in government schools, private schools and personal buildings have not yet got over the trauma of the floods and are facing other problems. Pregnant women and those people with heart problems are suffering worst, as there are no beds available in camps, and they have to sleep on the ground.
Affected people have also complained that their needs were being given less importance as compared to VIPs visiting the area. Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Nowshera reportedly caused problems as locals could not escape affected areas due to tight security.
The government has decided to compensate the families of those that have been killed with a sum of Rs300,000.
The initial assessment of economic loss to the province will take 15 to 20 days, said the chief minister. However, he said he thought the loss could run into billions of rupees.
Flooding in west Punjab reached critical levels on Sunday, as at least 110 villages and towns were submerged by the flooding in Indus River in Taunsa, Dera Ghazi Khan, rendering over 250,000 people homeless.
Overall, the situation was serious in Mianwalli, Layyah, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rahim Yar Khan districts. In Rahim Yar Khan. People living in Munchan Bund, Super bund and near the Indus River were told to evacuate the area within 24 hours. Dykes were being constructed in the area as 1.1 million cusecs of water is expected to pass through the riverway on Monday. Mianwali was declared a calamity-hit area, and in Malakwal, on orders of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the Pakistan Army, Rescue 1122 and district administrations have evacuated 140 people to safer locations. Mandi Bahauddin DCO Muhammad Amin Chaudhry said the situation was under control and rescue operations were underway across the district. Sharif gave the district administration of Taunsa 24 hours to provide relief to flood-affected people. The CM also terminated the services of Taunsa’s deputy district officer for not delivering relief to flood victims on time.
Meanwhile at least 172 Chinese engineers and 700 workers were shifted to safer locations from Chashma (Mianwali) as the district was declared a danger zone due to heavy rains.
Sindh’s cabinet met on Sunday to review flood arrangements. Irrigation Minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo pointed out that as the Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri barrages have managed to deal with as much as 1.3 million cusecs in the past, the administration was hoping they would cope with the 900,000 cusecs expected this time around. By Sunday, 52,000 cusecs had entered Sindh and flooding is expected in two to three days. Of greater worry are the canal embankments, which developed multiple breaches over the last six months and are weak in general. Irrigation experts fear that when the canals haven’t been able to withstand normal water flows and have broken down, any kind of flooding will devastate the surrounding areas. Also worrisome are post-flood snakebites, a scenario that has prompted Sindh to give its health department Rs25m for vaccines.
Protective bunds line 1,326 miles of the River Indus and the government has noted that 148 points are weak. The administration has been appealing to people to move to safer ground, but many villagers are adamant about staying put. They argue that government schools cannot accommodate whole villages and in any case, the government does a terrible job of handling displaced people.
Continuous rain along with flooding has inundated dozens of villages in Gilgit-Baltistan, and on Sunday the local administration shifted hundreds of people to relief camps. The Gilgit-Ghizer road has been badly damaged, cutting off the link between the two districts and causing a shortage of food and petrol.
(Additional input from News Desk, Agencies and our correspondents)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2010.
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