The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), tasked to handle natural disasters, has warned the inhabitants of low-lying areas in southern Punjab and upper Sindh to move to higher ground as the Pakistan Metrological Department predicted more rains on Thursday and Friday.
According to an official death toll, although media reports across the country indicate a much higher number of fatalities, the torrential rains have claimed 78 lives and injured 68 people over the past three days.
NDMA chairman Dr Zafar Iqbal Qadir confirmed these figures to The Express Tribune on Monday. “We don’t need any foreign assistance at the moment,” the chairman said. However, he did not rule out the possibility at a later stage, saying that every nation needs assistance when a natural disaster hits them.
NDMA has already declared an emergency in some districts of Sindh and in Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts of Punjab. Army personnel have been called in to join rescue efforts with the local administration.
The worst hit area is Khyber-Pakthunkhwa. Most infrastructure damage in the province took place in Nowshera, Tank, Mansehra, Buner, and Dera Ismail Khan were also badly affected. A remote village in Mansehra district also experienced infrastructure damage, where houses collapsed.
Heavy monsoon rains also left 226 houses fully destroyed while 1, 017 were partially damaged in Muzaffarabad, Barnala, Neelum, Mirpur, Sudhnoti, Bagh, Poonch, Kotli, Haveli/Kahuta over the last three days.
NDMA officials told The Express Tribune that major portions of three villages in Kot Addu (Loon Wala, Pirhar Gharbi Ghair, Mustaqil Hisa Gharbi and Bhubhar Ghair Mustaqil) were washed away due to erosion in the nearby Indus River. Over 1, 031 people have been affected in the area, they added.
Qadir added that rescue workers with the help of army troops transported 400 people on boats to safe locations as hill torrents from the Suleman Mountain range entered Dera Ghazi Khan. Troops are now trying to plug canal breaches in the area.
Meanwhile, unofficial figures have put the death toll in Punjab at 29.
In Sindh, where the unofficial death toll is continuing to rise, Qadir also confirmed that five people sustained injuries when a house collapsed in Benazirabad district.
Areas in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) also received heavy showers, causing landslides in several areas. Though NDMA officials did not confirm any casualty in the area, media reports suggest that rain-related accidents claimed three lives, leaving 15 others injured, near Chilas. Meanwhile, flights to and from G-B remained suspended for a fourth consecutive day.
Qadir said that the authority has reserved Rs5 billion under the Prime Minister’s Emergency Relief Fund to cope with heavy rains and floods.
“An extensively heavy monsoon in a short time frame and that too in poverty-hit regions, intensifies the challenge. The government is, however, aware of the situation and is providing all possible rescue and relief support.”
Meanwhile, NDMA, through the provincial disaster management authorities, dispatched 850 tents in Balochistan for people whose houses have been destroyed by rains, especially in Qilla Saifullah and Qalat. Punjab and K-P received 500 tents each. NDMA also sent 70 tents to G-B.
According to the Pakistan Met Department, strong monsoon currents are currently penetrating lower parts of the country, particularly Sindh and eastern Balochistan.
Widespread rain and thundershowers with isolated heavy rainfall is expected in Sindh today (Tuesday) which may cause more flooding in vulnerable areas of the province. Isolated heavy rainfall is expected in eastern parts of Balochistan and in southwest Punjab. Heavy rains may cause flash floods in Quetta, Zhob, Sibbi, Kalat, Nasirabad and DG Khan. Isolated rain is expected in K-P, Azad Kashmir, and G-B.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf directed NDMA and all authorities concerned to leave no stone unturned in relief efforts.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY OUR CORRESPONDENT IN MANSEHRA
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012.
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