Balochistan deluge: death toll hits 53

The death toll from flash floods and torrential rain in Barkhan and Kohlu districts rose to 53 on Friday.


Shahzad Baloch July 24, 2010

QUETTA: The death toll from flash floods and torrential rain in Barkhan and Kohlu districts rose to 53 on Friday after 13 bodies were recovered in eastern Balochistan.

Over 40,000 people in the province have been affected by the flooding, which also disrupted rail services between Quetta and Jacobabad following the washing away of a five kilometre-long track by hill torrents in Baktiarabad village.

Hassan Baloch, director general of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, said that 50 bodies had been recovered from Barkhan, some 350 kilometres east of Quetta. Three other bodies were recovered from Wazir Machi village of Lehri tehsil during the past two days.

Though relief efforts are under way in these areas, poor weather conditions and damaged roads continue to make things difficult.   Baloch said two helicopters had flown to the areas affected by floods on Friday in order to rescue trapped people. Some 14 trucks carrying relief goods have reached Kohlu, Barkhan and Sibi districts.

Despite that, residents of these districts on Friday began protesting against what they saw as ineffective relief measures.

People in Bakhtiarabad held a protest on the national highway disrupting traffic for several hours. Local tribal elder, Sardar Khan Domki, said the village had been completely devastated by hill torrents.

The village, which was populated by about 4,000 people, has been submerged by flooded water.

Protesting residents burnt tyres and chanted slogans against the administration for not providing them with adequate relief. However, they began to disperse after relief efforts in the area began.

Talking to The Express Tribune, the Commissioner of Sibi Division, Qamar Masood, said two tehsils, Sibi and Lehri, had been devastated by flash floods and at least 10,000 people in the tehsils had been affected. However, locals claimed that over 20,000 people had been affected in both the tehsils.

Commissioner Masood said relief work had begun in Nari, Lehri and some other areas via helicopter.

“We have a single helicopter providing relief goods to those who are visible from the roadside,” he said. He added that no casualties had been reported in rain-related incident in Sibi.

Referring to protests by local residents, he said the administration had held talks with those protesting in Baktiarabad and had started relief work in the area as well. Masood did concede, however, that rescue workers had no access to the majority of people affected, who he says are marooned in the middle of flooded areas.

Kohlu tehsil suffered similarly, as about 30 villages have been affected by floods and about 20,000 people have been rendered homeless, said the administration.

According to the Quetta Electric Supply Company (Qesco), around 13 power pylons of 33KV had been washed away or completely damaged in Kohlu and Barkhan plunging the two Tehsils into darkness.

Commissioner of Zhob Division Mir Ikhtiar Bangulzai said 25 to 30 villages had been devastated in the area he administered and around 20,000 people had been affected by flash floods.

“There were more property losses as compared to human losses,” he said. “Valuable standing crops on about 1,000 acres have been completely destroyed and all petrol pumps, small dams and bridges were washed away,” he told The Express Tribune.

He said that this was the worst flood Balochistan had faced in over a century.

Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lt-General (retd) Nadeem is set to conduct an aerial survey of all the areas affected by floods on Saturday and will report back to the prime minister. He was instructed by the prime minister to visit Balochistan and make an assessment about the damages incurred by the floods.  (Additional input from news desk)

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2010.

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