Eight people including three police officers were seriously injured in fighting during the distribution of relief goods in Mehmood Kot on Sunday, as relief efforts continued across flooded southern Punjab.
The crowd began throwing stones at police as they tried to stop fighting between two groups of men. “The situation is getting out of hand but we cannot blame the people. The food supplies are limited and these people have nothing left, they are becoming desperate,” said SP Inamul Hussain, adding that the police expected to see more such riots given the circumstances. The police baton charged the crowd in an attempt to quell the unrest.
Residents of Mehmood Kot expressed dissatisfaction over the distribution of flood relief goods. “The government is making tall claims but these goods are not reaching everyone, we have to fight for supplies near the trucks when they are being unloaded,” said Shahid Ghulam, a resident, adding that brawls were becoming a regular feature outside distribution junctures.
State minister Hina Rabbani Khar also reached Mehmood Kot to oversee the flood relief efforts.
People protested in front of her against the injudicious distribution of relief goods. Locals shouted slogans against the government. MPA Bilal Khar was also present on the occasion. The people pelted Hina Rabbani Khar’s protocol vehicles with stones and shoes as she left the area.
Meanwhile in other parts of Punjab, the flood waters continue to rise as a dyke near Daddo Mor in Dera Ghazi Khan adjacent to GT Road was broken to make way for the flood waters.
Locals said that splitting the dyke had led to Dera Ghazi Khan being disconnected from neighbouring areas. “It was an impossible choice, we would either be stranded or we would drown,” said tehsil municipal official (TMA) Sardar Shaukat Rafeeq.
In Daska, the Chenab River was in high flood at Head Marala and the Ravi River was flooded at Bajwat near Sialkot. Hundreds of people from villages near Chenab and Bajwat are stranded as both rivers are overflowing near Head Marala and Saidpur.
According to the Irrigation Department, 80 border villages were cut off from the main city, as link roads near Saidpur have been completely inundated. The flow of water was recorded at 195,905 cusecs at the Head Marala in the Chenab on Sunday and the communication system in the entire vicinity has nearly collapsed.
The Sialkot district administration has divided the district into 17 sectors and 34 sub-sectors to organise rescue and relief efforts and 34 camps have been set up in the district. All departments have been put on high alert and the flood situation is being monitored around the clock.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited relief camps in Jampur and Rajanpur and directed officials to accelerate relief efforts. “Rajanpur is one of the worst hit districts,” he said, adding the government was using all possible means to get food and shelter to the flood-victims
The death toll from rain and flood related incidents in Punjab has swelled to 82 while over 142 were injured with 1,588,091 villagers displaced and standing crops over 1,387,952 acres damaged across the province.
Provincial Relief Commissioner Ikhlaq Ahmad Tarar said that people had been killed in Gujrat, Mianwali, Rajanpur, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Attock, Khushab, Bhakkar, DG Khan and Layyah. He said that nearly 24,354 people had taken refuge in 166 relief camps in Rajanpur, Mianwali, Muzaffargarh, Khushab, Attock, DG Khan, Rahim Yar Khan, Layyah and Bhakkar.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2010.
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