SUKKUR: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani conceded on Sunday that the scale of the flood disaster had overwhelmed the government and spiralled beyond its capacity. The admission – which came during an inspection tour of Sukkur – coincided with an appeal, the prime minister’s second in the last 48 hours, for international humanitarian assistance.
“The government has done everything possible but it is beyond our capacity. We are facing an extremely difficult situation,” Gilani told reporters. “Millions of people have suffered and further losses are feared. At present, it is difficult to assess the losses, because the floodwater is still coming.”
“I appeal to the world to help us, we are doing what we can,” Gilani said.
With some anguish, the prime minister recounted how people living in the kachcha areas were now stranded in water, because they had defied repeated evacuation orders.
Armed forces personnel and relief workers fanned out across the flood-affected regions are providing food, medicines, tents and other required facilities to the people, he added.
Drawing a comparison between the present floods and the October 2005 earthquake, Gilani said that in sheer geographical terms the countrywide flooding had wreaked more havoc than the earthquake of 2005.
When asked if the situation would have been different if protective embankments had been strengthened, Gilani said: “If and when cannot make history.” He, however, said that the country was passing through a critical phase, pointing out that it had already suffered billions of rupees in losses.
The prime minister was accompanied by Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Labour and Manpower Minister Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and others during the inspection tour.
Irrigation officials said the pressure of water at Sukkur and Guddu barrages remained steady on Sunday afternoon.
At Guddu Barrage the water pressure stood at 1,148,000 cusecs, while at Sukkur Barrage the water was recorded at 1,115,000 cusecs. The Sukkur Barrage is designed to carry 900,000 cusecs of water, but in 1976 it sustained 1,200,000 cusecs of water.
For the time being, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Ghouspur, Karampur and other towns and villages have been saved due to a cut in the Begari Sindh canal near Makhwani embankment.
The water is now heading towards Mahi Chowk, Reni Canal, Kamoon Shaheed and Kot Sabzal areas situated at the Sindh-Punjab border. Army and Navy personnel have started rescue work in the area and people are being shifted to safer places.
Several embankments including, KK (Kachcha Kharif) bund, Qadirpur loop bund and Ali Wahan bund remain under tremendous pressure. A temporary breach may be created in the Ali Wahan embankment near Rohri to reduce the pressure of water, sources said. The area is scarcely populated.
In Ghotki, a five-year-old girl was swept away by the torrents, while two children died from water-borne illnesses.
Thousands of villagers were evacuated from the remote districts of Sindh. “A breach has taken place in a canal. Several villages are under water, we are shifting people to safer places, there is no report of human loss,” Sualeh Farooqui, chief of the Disaster Management Authority in Sindh told AFP.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2010.
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