ISLAMABAD: As the number of people affected by the floods increased to more than three million on Tuesday, officials warned that the worst could be yet to come.
The government has expressed concerns about the safety of two large barrages in Sindh — Guddu and Sukkur — with authorities fearing that heavy floodwaters could cause them to burst.
There is no official word on the magnitude of devastation the breakage could cause, but experts believe it may submerge the entire lower part of the province.
Speaking at a news conference, the chief of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said that the barrages are being watched closely. “We are keeping our fingers crossed. We are leaving no stone unturned (to make sure dams remain intact). The quantity of water that is to pass through these barrages is just huge and there are fears that they can be damaged,” NDMA chairman Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmed said.
His statement comes amid reports that close to a million cusecs of floodwater have entered Sindh after devastating Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa and parts of Punjab.
Ahmed said the flow of water at these two barrages would be at optimal level, a situation that can get out of control. But, the NDMA chief added, 8,000 troops with 95 boats and the entire helicopter fleet of the Pakistan Navy are ready to take on any situation in the province.
Accompanying him was the chief of Pakistan metrological department who sounded similar alarm bells by saying that a new spell of monsoon rains, which has already started, can trigger more flashfloods in areas already inundated by water. “The situation can get further aggravated (by rains),” Director General Met Office Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry warned.
“The first half of the current month (till August 15) is critical as another system of heavy rains would enter Sindh province from Bay of Bengal on August 8 or 9,” he said. These, he added, can be devastating for an already precarious situation.
According to a forecast issued by the met department, monsoon rains, possibly heavy at times, are expected over the already-flooded areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The rains would hit, in particular, districts such as Peshawar, Kohat, Lakki-Marwat, Bannu, Tank, DI Khan, Noshehra, Swabi, Charsada, Mardan and Swat. Rains are also expected in southern and western Punjab — Mianwali, Bhakkar, Layyah, Dera Ghazi (DG) Khan, Rajanpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Muzaffargarh —during the next 18 hours.
These rains might generate further flashfloods in the local rivers and nullahs of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the hill torrents of DG Khan and Rajanpur areas. “The flood situation in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab may be further aggravated due to the current monsoon rains,” the weather advisory warned. The rains will continue for the next 2-3 days, it added.
General Nadeem said that the number of affected people is still not clear because the damage assessment in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa and Punjab will be conducted once the flooding is over.
The Provincial Disaster Manangement Authority ordered the immediate evacuation of people from Mithra, Sahi Bala Jogni after an increase in the water level in Warsak Dam.
Meanwhile, mass evacuation took place in the city of Kot Addu in Punjab following flood warnings. The Kot Addu Bypass was submerged after the Muzaffargarh Canal burst its bank. The inflow of water in Tounsa Barrage reached one million cusecs, which affected the Daira Din Panah area. Around half a million people started moving out of the city on Tuesday to avoid danger.
However, in Sindh, despite warnings of floods, most residents of Katcha Bunder, Sukkur, refused to move to relief camps. Interestingly, the district administration managed to convince a few families to move to a nearby camp so that the media could report the evacuation. However, the families said that they would move back to their homes later in the day. WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2010.
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