Army personnel and rescue workers evacuated thousands of people from flood-risk areas on Thursday before a torrent of water began inundating several villages and flooding tracts of land between Guddu and Sukkur barrages in Sindh.
Officials said that more than 890,000 cusecs of water had passed through the Guddu Barrage on Thursday. Later in the day 550,000 cusecs of water had passed through the Sukkur Barrage. Vast tracts of land between the Guddu and Sukkur barrages were flooded as a result.
Five villages in the riverine area along the Indus were inundated. Dozens more are said to be in danger.
Army personnel continued working on their flood evacuation plan which will help relocate some 500,000 people. Not all residents were convinced though about the need for evacuation. Irrigation officials have warned that major floods will reach Sukkur on Saturday and Sunday in the fertile agricultural area of Kachcha along the Indus River.
The military said it had evacuated 25,000 people from different parts of the province while the Sindh government put the number at 150,000. “We have a target evacuation of at least 500,000 people who live in the 11 most vulnerable districts,” said Sindh Irrigation Minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo, insisting that many towns and villages were in danger.
Dharejo and other officials say that close to a million people living on both sides of the Indus River will have to be taken to safer places.
Earlier, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah spoke about the reluctance of local residents to move into relief camps during a meeting at Guddu Barrage. “The army has been directed to carry out forcible evacuation,” he said, because of the outright threat to their lives. The chief minister vowed to provide compensation to residents if their houses suffered damage in the floods.
The minister said he was hopeful that the floods would pass Guddu Barrage and other barrages in the province, including Sukkur and Kotri, without causing too much damage. He ruled out any plans of cutting the river embankment to reduce pressure.
The authorities have deployed policemen and paramilitary forces personnel in and around protective bunds and all other vulnerable sites in case of an emergency. “KK bund, Ghoraghat bund, Badani bund, Tori Bungalow bund, Milap bund and Qadirpur Loop bund are most sensitive but they will withstand the pressure,” the minister said.
“The flow of water may increase to 900,000 cusecs, which will head towards the Sukkur Barrage,” he said. Almost all the kachcha areas between Kashmore and Ghotki have been flooded and residents are being evacuated, the chief minister said.
Meanwhile, the UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Mogwanja said that there is another weather warning system coming in Sindh, which could increase the threat of flooding.
The number of flood-ravaged districts in Punjab has risen to seven, the United Nations said on Thursday. Officials warned that dams could burst as heavy rain lashed Kot Addu in Punjab, transforming the area into a giant lake. Army helicopters flew overhead as people streamed out of flooded villages searching for safer ground, the wire news agency AFP said.
A mass exodus of people was seen streaming out of flooded villages. “Altogether, more than four million people are in one way or another affected,” said Manuel Bessler, who heads the UN humanitarian arm Ocha in Pakistan.”What we are facing now is a major catastrophe,” he said.
Victims lashed out at authorities for failing to come to their rescue and provide better relief. Houses, shops, petrol pumps and small villages were submerged. “There’s up to six feet of water in the city. All our stuff was destroyed. We only saved our children,” Sadaqat Ali, 28, a plumber from Kot Addu told AFP. “We weren’t warned the flood would hit our villages,” said Allah Diwaya while manning a tea stall in Kot Addu.
Suhail Tipu, a senior administration official in the area, said that engineers had breached a flooded canal in two places to protect the Kot Addu power station, one of the country’s biggest.
Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that the floods have left around 72,000 people homeless. Floods had washed away 408 villages and 95 per cent of the damage has been caused in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, he added. The minister said that the provincial government is also working to avoid the spread of diseases.
Meanwhile, the flood warning cell said that the water level was declining in rivers of the province. It is said that there was a mid level flood in River Kabul at Nowshera and Adezai. Villagers in Dera Ismail Khan district have also left their homes for safer places.
In Swat district, four Chinook helicopters joined the relief and rescue efforts and tourists were being evacuated from Kalam to Khawazakhela. Although Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said about 100,000 people have been rescued and “relief items in sufficient quantity” provided, many say they have received no assistance from the government, only from local families.
Torrential rains continued for the third consecutive day in Balochistan, worsening the flood situation in Jaffarabad, Naseerabad, Dera Bugti and adjoining areas.
Relief operations were disrupted by the rains and loss of lives and destruction were reported in the Bugti tribal territory, where all the seasonal rivers are in high floods, inflicting heavy losses to life and property. A portion of around 600 feet of the National Highway has been washed away in Dera Murad Jamali, disrupting communication links with the rest of the country.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LIAQAT LAGHARI AND SHEHZAD BALOCH)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2010.
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