Dozens of people were killed as torrential rains ravaged the country on Sunday, inundating large swathes of land as canals breached their banks, roofs collapsed and people were electrocuted in its aftermath.
Sunday’s downpour also raised the death toll, particularly in southern Punjab.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) put the overall death toll on Sunday at over 69, but warned that it may rise as the meteorological department predicted more rains in the coming days.
Swelling death toll
“The strong monsoon spell has claimed over 69 lives and left 70 injured,” NDMA chairman Dr Zafar Iqbal Qadir told The Express Tribune. He added the strong but late spell of monsoon rains also damaged over 7,000 houses and shops across the country.
“Heavy rains may fall for two more days, but rivers are not expected to flood,” he said, adding that provincial disaster management authorities have already issued early flood warnings to prevent further damage.
According to the NDMA chairman, the death toll from rain-related incidents is 31 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), 23 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), four each for Sindh and Balochistan and three in the federal capital. Regarding Punjab, he said there were reports of casualties but the authority had yet to receive official confirmation. Unofficial reports put the number of dead at 29 in Punjab.
Havoc in South Punjab
NDMA officials, however, told The Express Tribune that media reports put the death toll in Punjab at around 20. More recent reports put the death toll in Punjab at 29 with southern Punjab alone accounting for 25 deaths. The number of injured has almost reached 80.
According to details provided by the officials, Rahimyar Khan received the heaviest rainfall, recorded at 193 millimetres, during the past 24 hours. Heavy rain was also reported in Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts and the hilly areas of Suleman range.
A 45-foot breach in a canal inundated two villages in Sadiqabad. Torrential rains in Multan damaged several houses and inundated low-lying areas. A 50-foot breach in Shanamal Canal has been reported in Lodhran while intermittent rains caused a breach in a canal near Sultan colony in district Muzaffargarh.
Areas in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) also received heavy showers, causing landslides in several areas. A rain-related accident also claimed five lives, leaving five others injured, near Chilas. Meanwhile, flights to and from G-B remained suspended for a fourth consecutive day.
Heavy rains also wreaked havoc in several parts of Sindh, especially Badin and Hyderabad, where low lying areas remained inundated. Reports claimed up to five people were killed in the latter district, due to electrocution and collapsed roofs.
The NDMA chairman said that the authority has reserved Rs5 billion under the Prime Minister’s Emergency Relief Fund to cope with heavy rains and floods. He said, however, the authority has not received any request for the release of funds from provincial authorities, adding that this showed they had sufficient funds.
Meanwhile, the provincial disaster management authority in Balochistan has dispatched 800 tents for people whose houses have been destroyed by rains, especially in Qilla Saifullah. The provincial authority of K-P also sent 50 tents in different cities which have received heavy rains.
Dams fill up
Dr Qadir told The Express Tribune that the water level in dams is rising due to the rains. He termed it a good omen for the country’s agriculture sector.
The water level in Tarbela Dam rose by 1,545 feet while Mangla Dam’s water level has gone up to 1,200.88 feet.
Forecast for next 24 hours
Widespread rains with very heavy showers are expected all over Sindh including Sukkur, Larkana, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Karachi divisions.
The same spell of rains is also expected in northeast Balochistan, including Zhob, Kalat, Sibbi and Nasirabad divisions, and Bahawalpur, Multan, DG Khan and Sahiwal divisions in South Punjab.
Scattered rain with isolated heavy showers is expected over Kashmir and Upper Punjab and isolated thundershowers are expected over K-P and G-B.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS IN KARACHI, HYDERABAD, MULTAN AND GILGIT)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2012.