Balochistan declares emergency as western winds loom

NDMA sounds the alarm, issues alerts to all concerned authorities

Our Correspondent April 16, 2024
Traffic continues to flow on Korangi Road during the first shower of the rainy season on Friday. PHOTO: JALAL QURESHI/EXPRESS


As the nation braces for a new wave of western winds beginning Tuesday, the Balochistan government has declared a rain and urban flood emergency. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) remains on high alert for the impending thunderstorms expected to hit various regions.

The provincial government's declaration of emergency comes in response to ongoing heavy rains that have pounded different districts of the province, resulting in casualties and injuries. Shahid Rind, spokesperson for the Balochistan government, highlighted the necessity of this declaration.

To ensure swift rescue operations for flood-affected individuals and preempt any potential crises, all leaves for government officers and staff members have been cancelled.

In addition, Shahid Rind declared the closure of schools in rain-affected districts of the province on April 15 and 16.

Under the leadership of Balochistan Chief Minister Sarfaraz Bugti, an online meeting convened with commissioners and PDMA officials to assess the situation arising from heavy rainfall in the province and to discuss the ongoing rescue efforts.

During the meeting, the chief minister expressed dissatisfaction with public grievances regarding inadequate drainage systems and pledged to allocate necessary resources and support to field officers for timely and precautionary actions in rain-affected areas.

Bugti stressed the government's obligation to alleviate the suffering of affected individuals, instructing field officers to clear encroachments on drainage canals and urging them, along with district

administration officials, to visit affected areas and extend all possible assistance to those in need.
Flood, landslides alert

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Authority also issued an alert.

With the imminent threat of flooding and landslides looming large, the disaster management authority has sounded the alarm, issuing alerts to all concerned authorities.

From April 16 to 22, under the influence of these powerful winds, widespread rainfall accompanied by gusty winds and hail is anticipated to pummel different parts of the country.

The forecast comes as at least 41 people have died in storm-related incidents across Pakistan since Friday, including 28 killed by lightning, officials said on Monday.

Punjab witnessed the highest death toll, with 21 people killed by lightning between Friday and Sunday.
People living in open, rural areas are more at risk of being struck by lightning during thunderstorms.

In particular, mountainous areas face the peril of snowfall, raising concerns about potential landslides and river flooding in Balochistan. The NDMA has called upon all relevant institutions to remain vigilant in anticipation of potential flood emergencies.

Additionally, the prime minister expressed concerns about the heavy rains affecting parts of the country and expressed condolences for the lives lost.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif told the participants that he had asked the chairman of the NDMA to coordinate with the provinces and provincial disaster management authorities to dispatch relief items to the affected areas.

According to meteorological experts, a fresh wave of western winds is set to sweep into Balochistan Tuesday night, gradually enveloping most districts of the province by April 17.

By April 18, these weather patterns are projected to extend to the northern regions, triggering rainfall across Azad Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit Baltistan.

The NDMA has issued directives to concerned departments to stay on high alert. A spokesperson for the NDMA highlighted the heightened risk of flooding in key river systems including the Kabul River, Swat, and Panjkora.

Communities residing along the banks of these rivers, particularly in areas such as Yake Ghund, Nowshera, and Peshawar along the Kabul River, are urged to exercise caution.

Similarly, inhabitants of Utmankhel, Dir, and other locales adjacent to the Panjkora River are advised to prepare for potential flooding.

Moreover, low-lying areas such as Charbagh, Bahrain, and Babuzai in the Swat Valley are on high alert for flooding, while concerns persist regarding the threat of landslides in both lowland and hilly regions.
In addition to the deluge, the onslaught of wind and hail poses a grave threat to standing crops, infrastructure, and public safety.

Authorities have cautioned against unnecessary travel to high-risk areas and advise citizens to steer clear of power poles, unstable buildings, and waterways during inclement weather.

Army rescue operations

Meanwhile, the army continued conducting rescue operations in rain-affected regions of Swat, Dir, and Chitral.

According to reports, the Pakistan Army, in collaboration with district administration and other rescue agencies, has managed to reopen several roads in these areas, restoring traffic flow.

The closure of the Chitral to Peshawar Road resulted from landslides, prompting swift intervention from the Pakistan Army. Utilising heavy machinery, the army swiftly cleared the roadblocks, facilitating the resumption of normal traffic.

Simultaneously, alongside rescue endeavours, the Pakistan Army extends aid to stranded tourists, ensuring their safety and providing assistance during this challenging period.

In a separate development, the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) has successfully rescued tourist families who were trapped near Khunjerab Pass following an avalanche that blocked the road for all traffic yesterday.

The avalanche, spanning 150 meters, had ensnared over 60 vehicles and trapped more than 180 tourist families.

The FWO deployed heavy machinery to clear the avalanche, while medical teams from the Pakistan Army promptly assisted the stranded tourists, who were at risk of serious health complications due to the extreme cold weather.


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