Officially, the ongoing monsoon spell may not have claimed many lives, but an aerial view of southwestern Punjab shows the devastation is colossal.
In Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts, hill torrents unleashed by torrential rains literally turned dozens of villages into swamps, uprooting thousands of people from their homes.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) took a select group of journalists along with government officials and UN representatives on a short trip to the devastated region.
However, at a briefing that followed the aerial tour of the region, NDMA officials painted a rather less gloomy picture.
“Timely warning of hill torrents and canal breaches saved millions of lives in DG Khan,” said NDMA Chairman Dr Zafar Iqbal Qadir.
“Only three fatalities have been reported in DG Khan thus far. However, thousands of acres of farmland and hundreds of houses are submerged by nearly 10 feet of water,” he added.
According to official figures, 70% of the cotton crop in the district has been destroyed, while the rice crop has also been affected. Sugarcane is the only crop believed to have survived the ravages of floodwater.
The telecommunication link between South Punjab and Balochistan has crashed and a huge stretch of the highway connecting the two provinces has also been washed away.
“Nearly 150 kilometres of the highway connecting Dera Ghazi Khan and Quetta has been swept away by a landslide near Fort Monroe hill station,” said an official of the National Highway Authority. It might take up to 30 days to repair the road, he added.
Meanwhile, reports said that around 100 tourists are stranded at Fort Monroe hill station following landslides and flooding.
According to Captain (retd) Abdul Sattar Isani, the director of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), 0.12 million people have been affected in the district and over 16,000 acres of farmland has been inundated.
Unofficial figures, however, suggest that over 0.2 million have been displaced and over 0.12 million acres of farmland has been swamped.
Four torrents – including Wadore and Sori Lund – discharged thousands of cusecs of water causing breaches in canals. The torrents are said to be far heavier compared to the epic floods of 2010.
Wadore torrent, for instance, released 97,000 cusecs of water in 2010, while this time around it discharged around 0.15 million cusecs of water.
Devastation in the adjoining Rajanpur district is no less in magnitude. Nearly 0.21 million people have been uprooted and people are using boats to salvage valuables from their homes.
Heavy rains have destroyed the entire drainage system comprising 16 canals, while locals said nearly 0.5 million acres of farmland is under water.
“I came here from Faisalabad to cultivate my land, which is said to be the ‘Golden Land’ – but it nearly killed my family. I am now going back to Faisalabad with a broken heart,” said Ghulam Ali, a farmer.
Around 1,500 people from Multan, Sahiwal, Lodhran, Muzaffargarh and Kot Addu are currently living in relief camps set up by the provincial administration, while 294 people have been accommodated in 16 relief camps in Rajanpur. Rescuers have also evacuated nearly 1,200 people from Rajanpur.
However, barring a lone truck sent by World Health Organisation to DG Khan, there are no other medicines or health facilities.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.