MUZAFFARABAD: The devastating floods in Punjab have affected over 1,400 villages and 2,147,000 acres of land. According to agriculture authorities, 1,387,000 acres of crops have been affected by the floods and 1.6 million people have been displaced as 80,000 homes have been destroyed. So far in Punjab, there have been 19 deaths and 24 serious injuries reported.
Punjab Relief director general Rizwanullah Baig told The Express Tribune that the Punjab government was still in the process of collecting information about the flood victims. He said the floods had severely affected the Dera Ghazi Khan division. “The most severe flooding has taken place in the Rajanpur, Kot Addu and Alipur tehsils and the breach of the Muzaffargarh canal has only made the situation much worse,” Baig said.
Baig said that the government was carrying out large scale relief activities, adding that so far 8,000 tents had been distributed among flood victims, 140 trucks containing foods and essentials had been sent to the DG Khan division while the Punjab government had allocated Rs10 million for each district which had been affected by the floods.
People in the affected zones have had to permanently vacate their homes and thousands have camped out on the roads as they have yet to receive shelter and aid from the government relief package. “Hundreds of people are without shelter and are presently living on the side of GT Road,” Baig said, adding that people in the Rajanpur, Fazilpur and Kot Mithan tehsils were yet to receive aid. “We are trying to get the relief items to the affected people as soon as possible but the numbers just keep on growing,” he added.
Flood victims have said that there are no proper arrangements for food and medicines in the area. Jampur, a well settled tehsil of the Rajanpur district, has been completely inundated and around 150,000 inhabitants of the tehsil were moved from the area and are currently living on the roads. “There is fear of diseases such as cholera spreading among the flood victims living in the open.
Also the damp ground means that there are more snakes and scorpions and several people have already spotted poisonous snakes that could easily attack marooned people in Rajanpur,” he said.
Syed Saqlain, a local tiller and politician in Rajanpur, said that in 2005 Indus River floods washed out 10-feet embankments in the area. “Back then, the government told us that 800,000 cusecs of water was running in the Indus River,” he said, but at present the water level was 16ft and easily crossed the 12ft embankment, devastating urban areas of the district. Saqlain said that according to his assessment nearly 1,400,000 cusecs had passed in the Indus this year. “The government is deceiving us about the real figures because they don’t want to spread panic,” he said.
The Rajanpur district coordination officer (DCO) told The Express Tribune that approximately 400,000 people had been affected in the district; 726,209 acres of land had been flooded, including 323,938 acres of cultivated land; and nearly 8,000 homes had been destroyed. He said that the district administration had already set up 33 relief camps, 26 medical and 20 camps for cattle.
A DG Khan tehsil municipal administration (TMA) official said that 263,000 acres had been affected in the district and 150,000 acres of crops had been decimated. “Over 200,000 people have been displaced and the number of houses that have been damaged has not been finalised yet,” he said. The TMA official said that 48 relief camps had been set up while 1,000 tents had already been distributed among the stranded people.
In Muzaffargarh, officials said that the breach of the Muzaffargarh canal continued to devastate the Kot Addu tehsil, adding that approximately 500,000 people had been affected. The Layyah DCO said that around 300,000 acres of land had been affected in the area and 400,000 people had been displaced. Thirteen people were reported killed in flood-related incidents in the area in the past week.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minster Shahbaz Sharif has been visiting districts throughout the province for the past week. On August 6, the CM wrote a letter to the federal government, requesting that extra trains be run in the flood-hit areas to help move people to safer locations. He also asked that the federal government donate a minimum of Rs10 billion to the Punjab government to assist flood victims as soon as possible.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2010.
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