Government turns to army amid fears of more devastation


Zia Khan July 31, 2010

ISLAMABAD: With record levels of flooding in the country already and widespread fears that the situation may worsen along the Indus river belt when floodwaters make their way down, the federal government on Saturday enlisted the help of the military.

Compounding fears is the meteorological department’s warning that more rain is headed towards the country over the next 48 hours.

“The military is fully prepared for the challenge of rescuing people from areas inundated by floods,” a spokesperson for the army told the media here amid reports that more than a million cusecs of water had collected in the Indus River from the floods in southern Punjab and across the country, and was now making its way downstream.

The director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj Gen Athar Abbas said the military had already been moved to the affected areas and was assisting the civil administration in rescue operations.

Fresh warnings were issued, in the meantime, by the metrological department for Punjab, where the threat of flooding is imminent.

The department also said that a fresh low pressure monsoon system, which now lies over central parts of India after developing over the Bay of Bengal, will move towards Pakistan over the next 48 hours.

Sindh, Punjab, Kashmir, eastern parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and eastern parts of Balochistan are likely to receive partially-heavy rains starting August 2.

Current hydrological data indicates that Punjab, especially areas along the Indus River, would be badly hit.

According to the department’s data, several low-lying areas in Punjab had been inundated on Saturday and more water is expected to pass through these regions in days to come.

At Taunsa, 980,000 cusecs of water discharge has been recorded, emanating upstream from Chashma. The flow there is likely to remain from 850,000 to 950,000 cusecs between August 1 and 3. Further downstream at the southern end of Punjab, Mithankot, the situation is expected to compound. With about 200,000 cusecs of water discharge coming from Jhelum and Chenab, added to the flow from Taunsa, the flood water flow will exceed a million cusecs – which will then make its way to Nothern Sindh at Guddu and then Sukkur. Here the government is already scrambling to put in place emergency measures including evacuating the river-side communities.

Even before making its  way down, the flood water coming from Chashma is expected to inundate low-lying areas of Bakhar, Layyah, Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts.

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari instructed Interior Minister Rehman Malik to visit Kaghan and Naran areas of Hazara division in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to review the flood situation and relief efforts.

The interior minister, along with the National Disastrous Management Authority (NDMA) chairman Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed, travelled to Naran where many tourists and locals have been trapped due to severe flooding.

According to reports reaching here from Balakot town in Kaghan, authorities were able to restore road links connecting the valley with the outside world, giving those stranded a chance to leave the area after three days.

Zardari said that all available resources would be utilised to evacuate the stranded people to safer places.

He said that all the federal agencies would help the provincial governments tackle the flood situation.

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

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