Death toll soars past 1,000


August 01, 2010

PESHAWAR: Rescue workers and troops on Saturday scrambled to reach thousands of people marooned in their areas by the country’s worst floods in living memory, with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa bearing the greatest brunt as the death toll in the province rose to 800. The nationwide figure has crossed the 1,000 mark.

Hundreds of homes and vast swathes of farmland were destroyed, with the Karakoram Highway reportedly cut off and communities isolated as monsoon rains caused flash floods and landslides. The UN reported that almost a million people had been affected by the flooding, and at least 45 bridges destroyed across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Television footage and photos shot from helicopters showed people clinging to the walls and rooftops of damaged houses as gushing waters rampaged through inundated villages.

Clutching on to their belongings and carrying their children on their shoulders, some brave souls even walked barefoot through the water to reach safety.

“The death toll from the flood-stricken areas of K-P rose to a massive 800 souls, according to some reports,” said K-P Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, but hastened to add, “these are mere speculations based on fragments of data”.

The minister said that the government has confirmation of only 438 registered deaths, but the actual figure could be much higher as the areas worst hit by the calamity are inaccessible, The Express Tribune correspondent Iftikhar Firdous reports from Peshawar. The minister said 104 people were still missing while 149 suffered injuries in the rampaging floods.

Police said the number of people killed in Swat and Shangla topped 314. In Shangla alone, around 158 people were reported dead while 156 drowned in Swat.

Locals said that two villages in Madyan were wiped out of existence. Officials from Upper Dir said the fatality count in the district had reached 73.

The Malakand division has been severely affected with lines of communication cut off. Officials from the Provincial Disaster Management (PDMA) say that it might take three weeks before the 20 kilometres  road towards Alpuri, Shangla could be made accessible.

Nineteen dead bodies were recovered in Charsadda.

The Peshawar Motorway was reopened for traffic at midnight after painstaking efforts by the authorities. The district of Charsadda has been cleared completely, said DG PDMA Shakeel Khan Qadir. “We expect completion of all relief operations by tomorrow,” he added.

Estimates reveal that there might be more than 26,000 people still trapped across the province. Houses in Nowshera were submerged in water. The water level in the dams is more than they can accommodate.

In the aftermath of the calamity, the provincial government has abolished all taxes and asked the federal government to declare the province as tax-free. “Otherwise we know how to get our rights,” said the emotionally-charged information minister.

Peshawar, and the districts of Swat and Shangla, were cut off from the rest of country as roads and highways were submerged, he said.

Police said five people were drowned when their boat capsized near Nowshera on Saturday.

Hundreds of people arrived in Peshawar, many of them without any belongings. Muqaddir Khan, 25, who arrived with nine other family members, told a news agency that he had lost everything in the flood.

“I laboured hard in Saudi Arabia for three years and set up a small shop which was swept away by flood in minutes. I have lost everything,” Khan said. Razia Bibi, 48, said she and her family spent the night awake as water kept rising.

“My house is now gone under water and I could escape with a few belongings,” she said.

Authorities are using school buildings in Peshawar to shelter those affected by the floods. The army said it had sent boats and helicopters to rescue stranded people and its engineers were trying to open roads and divert water from key routes.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has been hit the hardest but monsoon rains have also killed 25 people in Balochistan over the past few days, a senior officer of the disaster management authority, Ataullah Khan, told a news agency in Quetta. Flash floods had affected eight districts, he said, adding that around 275,000 people had been affected and more than 15,000 houses destroyed.

In Punjab at least 100 villages have been inundated as floods coming from River Indus hit Tonsa Sharif Mianwali, said DCO Tonsa Iftikhar Sammo.

According to the flood control room, 460,000 cusecs of flood water is passing from River Indus through Tonsa barrage.

700,000 cusecs of water released from Chashma barrage, has entered Layyah washing away crops and low-lying areas. DCO Layya Javed Iqbal said that 12 relief camps have been set up to cope with any untoward situation and Pak Army has been called for rescue works.

Meanwhile, around 1,000,000 cusecs of water is expected to flow into Sukkur Barrage on August 7. Irrigation authorities have summoned the army and Rangers to help monitor the vulnerable areas and deal with any emergency that might surface.

Swat

At least 214 people have been killed in Swat; more than 160 in Shangla and over 20 in Buner, while more than 150 people are missing, after floods left several villages in the Gilgit-Baltistan inundated.

110 bridges – including 6 major bridges, more than 3700 houses, 450 water mills, 139 small hydel power stations, hotels, hospitals and schools have been washed away as flood waters gushed through the region.

The communication system is completely jammed and the road links have been cut off from other parts of the country for the past three days. Electricity has been disconnected as a large number of electricity poles have been uprooted.

Ninety per cent of agriculture land has been inundated, leaving crops completely destroyed.

Landslides triggered by the floods cost the lives of over 60 people in Olander area of Shangla on Friday. Ten power stations, more than 300 houses, 110 bridges, water mills and dispensaries were also washed away in the different villages of Shangla.

2,500 tourists from upper Swat have been rescued through helicopter service by Pakistan Army, while boat service is continuing its recue operations in the River Swat between Tehsil Kabal and Mingora.

Diseases such as cholera, dysentery and other epidemics have broken out in the area and people are facing multiple problems due to scarcity of water.

According to reports, local authorities and administration disappeared from the scene, leaving the people to their own devices. As a result, residents of Mingora staged a protest rally in front of the DCO office and threatened that they will go on a hunger strike if relief was not provided.

AJK

At least 46 have been killed in Azad jammu and Kashmir (AJK) as floods continue to wreak havoc in the area, officials said on Saturday.

According to the disaster control room at least 12 people have been killed in Muzaffarabad, seven in Neelum valley, seven in Sudhnoti, five in  Hattian Bala and Kotli, three each in Mirpur, Rawalakot,  Bagh and two each in district Havali and Bhimber .

A total of 706 houses have been completely destroyed, while 1,022 were partially damaged. Likewise, some 384 shops have been destroyed completely and 211 partially.

(AFP with additional input from The Express Tribune correspondents Iftikhar Firdous, Fazal Khaliq, Roshan Mughal and Sarfraz Memon)

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2010.

COMMENTS (24)

Bangash | 11 years ago | Reply and pakistanis still wont build dams that can capture this water and still wont plant trees that can stop this flooding. Pakistanis will simply continue to stumble from one calamity to another. @Nina The drone strikes in FATA are killing terrorists like Baitullah and Hakeemullah Mehsud. Alongwith that the US govt helping in this flood relief and also helped enormously in 2005 earthquake. So snap out of your slumber and recognize those who are helping you, rather than being full of anger all the time.
Shakeela | 11 years ago | Reply We need new large dams with large storage capacity... We need to be united and we need to ignore what politicians have to tell us.... Come on Pakistan....Build your country....build dams like Kalabagh and Basha, build barrages and stave of the dangers of floods.... Act fast.....
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