'Magnitude of loss huge compared to resources': Govt, army resolve to fight floods

Govt's flood response centre convenes for first session in Islamabad

Our Correspondent September 03, 2022
First formal meeting of the NFRCC underway. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB


The National Flood Response Coordination Centre (NFRCC) on Saturday held a briefing on the ongoing rescue and relief efforts and expressed resolve to fight the devastating floods together while urging the people to contribute to the effort.

The televised briefing took place after the first formal session of the newly-established flood response nerve centre.

DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar assured the nation that the army would stand by the people in this hour of need and the "people's trust is the biggest asset of the Pakistan Army".

He said army troops were performing rescue and relief operations in collaboration with Rangers, Frontier Corps, disaster management authorities, civil administration and welfare organisations under the Relief, Rescue and Rehabilitation (RRR) strategy.

“The army chief visited the flood-affected areas and made a detailed assessment,” he said, adding that all formations and senior commanders of the army were present in flood-affected areas and engaged in relief operations.

As per the COAS's instructions, the army "will not abandon people in this difficult time, no matter how much time and effort it takes," Maj Gen Babar said.

According to the military's spokesperson, 276 helicopters of Pakistan Army Aviation were working in different areas of the country.

Soldiers risked their lives to partake in relief activities, he said, mentioning the Lasbela army chopper crash which resulted in the death of six officers. He maintained that soldiers were working on rescue operations for the last two months, treating it like a "sacred responsibility".

Maj Gen Babar added that people trapped by floods in Kamrat and Kalam were also evacuated to safer areas by army helicopters.

He also stated that free medical facilities were being provided at 250 army medical camps which had assisted 83,000 patients.

Elaborating further, the military spokesperson said the army had distributed three-day worth of rations to flood affectees - weighing around 1,685 tons and had also distributed 25,000 Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) along with tents.

Maj Gen Babar added that 284 flood relief collection points were established across the country wherein 2,294 tons of rations, more than 311 tons of basic necessities and more than 1,070,000 medicines were donated by the people of Pakistan.

"So far 1,793 tons of ration and 277 tons of other necessities have been distributed among the victims. Moreover, around 770,000 medicines have also been provided to the flood victims," he said.

Mentioning the efforts of the Pakistan Air Force, he said C130s and helicopters rescued more than 1,521 people during 135 sorties and added that 41 relief camps of the PAF were helping people, and more than 16,000 patients had been provided medical assistance in 35 free medical camps.

Babar also said that the Pakistan Navy's emergency response teams and diving teams were busy helping flood victims across the country and that 10,000 people had been rescued. The navy had, so far, distributed more than 55,000 food packages, including 650 tons of rations and more than 1,080 tents.

Moreover, he added that 19 medical camps were providing free medical assistance to more than 18,000 patients.

An army relief fund account for flood victims had also been established wherein people from all over the country "generously helped their affected brothers and sisters".

"In view of this sentiment, all generals have dedicated one month's salary for flood victims”, he said.

To date, Rs417 million had been collected by the army relief fund for victims with Rs 44 million collected in the past 24 hours, the DG ISPR said.

Furthermore, leaderships of friendly countries were also in constant contact with the army chief so that steps could be taken to help the people, he stated.

'Magnitude of loss huge compared to our resources'

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan was facing the worst climate-induced damage in recent world history, with 33 million people affected by the floods.

“The magnitude of this loss is huge compared to our resources, however, our commitment is also big”, he added. The minister maintained that it was impossible to face the calamity alone.

Highlighting the devastating loss across the country, he stated that 1,500 mm of rain fell in some areas, compared to the 20-30 mm average of previous years and that the regions of South Punjab, Dir, Nowshera and Charsadda were badly affected.

“More than one million houses were damaged, about 5,000 kilometres of roads were ruined and a fortnight ago, 14 major highways connecting the country’s main logistics hubs were cut off.”

Discussing relief efforts, Ahsan said that the Pakistani armed forces and other agencies jointly repaired some of the highways while the remaining ones would also be restored in the coming days.

He further said recovery efforts in Punjab were rapidly undertaken, adding that Dera Ghazi Khan was badly affected by inundation which left 54 dead.

Commenting on the situation in Sindh, Ahsan maintained that the water drainage was slow with 230 perishing in the province.

So far, 69 of the 81 submerged grid stations have been restored, and 758 of the 881 feeders damaged were repaired while work was ongoing on the remaining 123, he said.

“2,900 of the 3,500 mobile phone towers affected have been restored,” said the planning minister, adding that the prime minister had issued directions to fix the remaining 600 towers soon.

Ahsan further said that the armed forces, government, and civil society would be integrated with the response centre and that every Pakistani who wants to donate should donate to armed forces centres established across the country to collect donations.

Chairman NDMA Lieutenant General Akhtar Nawaz underlined that the meteorological department had predicted 20-25% more rain in the country, whereas in actuality, Pakistan saw more than 190% of its usual rainfall.

“These rains used to occur in Kashmir, North and Central Punjab, however, this time there were heavy rains in Southern K-P, Punjab, DG Khan, Rajanpur and Sindh,” he added.

According to the NDMA chief, 1,265 people were killed by the floods so far, most of whom were children.

Moreover, 5,563 km of roads were damaged, 1.4 million houses were destroyed and 735,000 cattle were washed away in the floods, Gen Nawaz maintained.

“A high power committee was established for relief at the federal level and seeing the situation, a national emergency was declared”, he said.

As part of the relief efforts, Rs25,000 were given to every household and 57,400 food packages of 90 kilogrammes each were distributed to the victims, he said.

The disaster management agency chairman also announced that flights bearing relief food arrived from Turkey, China, and France, and 98 tons of dry fruits, boats, and medicine will be arriving from Turkey.

Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations Major General Babar Iftikhar chairman flood commission, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairperson Lieutenant General Akhtar Nawaz, deputy chairperson and national coordinator of the NFRCC, and a representative of the metrological department attended the earlier meeting of the newly-established body.

The forum was apprised of the latest flood situation in the country and the response measures taken to rescue and provide relief to the affected people. The attendees were also informed of the rehabilitation plan for the affected areas, communication, and infrastructure.

Earlier this week, the incumbent coalition government decided to establish the NFRCC to cope with the flood situation and rehabilitate the impacted people.

Read Flood relief fails to reach remote areas

The decision was made at a meeting of the allied parties chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The NDMA chief briefed the meeting about the situation of floods in the country and relief activities.

PM Shehbaz said that the centre would “serve as a bridge between disaster management authorities, donors and government institutions”.

According to the premier, the NFRCC would collect and analyse the latest information and pass it on to relevant government agencies, as well as oversee rescue and relief work, including the restoration of infrastructure.



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