Thousands affected by floods clash over 50 atta bags

Clashes erupted on Tuesday between hoards of people affected by flash floods and the police in Rajanpur district.

Abdul Manan July 28, 2010

RAJANPUR: Clashes erupted on Tuesday between hoards of people affected by flash floods and the police in Rajanpur district after only 50 bags were brought in to be distributed among them. In the end, the police had to baton charge the crowd to disperse it.

Talking to the media, Mian Iftikhar Rasol, the district coordination officer (DCO), denied the baton charge reports. He admitted, however, that the police had to step in to prevent a row among the displaced people who were competing for the flour bags. Rasool said that there was no shortage of relief goods. “We’re working towards passing on the relief goods in an efficient manner. We’ll also arrange compensation for the people who have lost their cotton hrvests.”

Flash floods caused by hill torrents in Rajanpur district on July 22 have so far devastated 131 villages leaving around 15,055 people homeless and 162,000 acres of cotton fields ruined, a report compiled by the district coordination office stated.

1,000 houses have been completely washed away while 976 have been partially damaged due to the floods.

The floods were triggered by the Kaha Sultan torrent, which reached a peak flow of 80,000 cusecs, and the Chachar hill torrent, where the water discharge rose to 18,000 cusecs. The floods have hit the Jampur tehsil the worst.

The district administration has stated that over 72 villages located between Khanki and Qadirabad headworks are still at the risk of being flooded as water levels in the torrents are expected to rise further.

Hassan Iqbal, the Dera Ghazi Khan commissioner, has declared Rajanpur a calamity-struck region and recommended waiver of taxes.

Chief Minster Shahbaz Sharif has announced a Rs10 million aid package for the affected. He has also agreed to write off farm loans to the small farmers in the region.

Agha Hussain, the district officer (coordination), told The Express Tribune that the provincial government had provided Rs2 million to the district administration from which 400 tents have been distributed among the displaced people.

He said that two helicopters have been employed to undertake rescue operations. “They are conducting regular flights,” he said.

He claimed that the floods this year were of less intensity than those that struck the region in 2008.

“In 2008, the entire district was devastated. This year serious damage has been limited to the Jampur tehsil only,” he said.

Hussain said that flour, pulses, rice and other edibles were being distributed among the flood affected. Besides, he said that the Health Department had established nine medical relief camps across the region. “Three snake-bite cases have so far been reported at the Pull Dajal relief camp. Thankfully, all of them were saved by administering anti-snake venom vaccine in time,” he said.

Earlier, the Health Department submitted a report to the chief minister stating that 1,376 patients had so far been provided with medical treatment.

The report said that a mobile health team each was working in Rajanpur, Jampur and Rojhan while 106 beds had been reserved for the flood affected at the District Headquarters (DHQ) hospital at Rajanpur, the Tehsil Headquarters Hospitals (THQs) at Rojhan and Jampur, as well as at the six rural health centres. 16 ambulances are currently taking part in the relief work, according to the report.

Sardar Ali Raza Khan Dareeshak, the former district nazim, alleged that the administration was using the relief goods to oblige the voters of the politicians belonging to the ruling coalition. He alleged that follwoing last year’s flood the tents meant for the affected had been sold in the market.

He said that the provincial government last year sent bulldozers to flatten the land affected by the hill torrents but they were only used in the areas populated by the ruling coalition’s vote bank disregarding other lands needing immediate attention.

Dareeshak held that the government could lessen the devastation caused by these floods by building small-capacity dams on these hill torrents.

He rejected the claim that relief work was going on smoothly. He said that the ambulances deployed in the region were inadequate to meet the demand. He said that he had donated Rs5,000 to an injured man in Muhammadpur for treatment. “When I called him up to find out if he had received some treatment, he told me that he could not find a government ambulance and had to board a taxi using the money I gave him,” the former nazim said.

The flood in 2008 ruined cotton crop on about 189,000 acres and left around 89,850 people homeless.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2010.


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