QUETTA/ PESHAWAR/ KARACHI:
Incessant rainfall wreaked havoc across the country on Saturday, triggering flash floods up north, damaging infrastructure, submerging villages and inundating cities and towns. In all, at least 51 people were killed and many more injured, while the damage to properties was seen as colossal.
Life in Karachi, the teeming metropolis of over 16 million, came to a grinding halt as it received the first downpour of the current monsoon. At least 16 people – among them eight children – died in rain-related incidents as provincial authorities called in army troops to help drain out rainwater from different neighbourhoods. Most of the fatalities were caused by electrocution and drowning.
The rain caused dozens of feeders of the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) to trip, which resulted in power outages in almost half of the city. As most drains were clogged, rainwater and sewage flooded the busiest arteries and thoroughfares of the city, causing gridlocks at different places. Several cars and mini-buses also broke down in the middle of the roads adding to the traffic mess.
Angered by the mismanagement of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, the Sindh government sacked its administrator Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi and Municipal Services chief Masood Alam.
Although the posh and residential neighbourhoods were no exception, the worst-hit were the slums and villages on the edge of the city.
Around 250 houses of Babu Basti and Bhund Goth were partially damaged after the Thado River broke its banks in Malir area. Most residents fled their homes to seek shelter in a state-run school in nearby Soomar Kandi village.
Similarly, over a dozen houses were damaged in Badai Jokhio village while the situation in another six villages near the Sukkan River is also critical. Latt Basti and Ali Muhammad Jatt Goth were also inundated when the nearby drain overflowed.
“Army troops have started draining out the rainwater,” a military spokesperson told The Express Tribune. “The troops have been draining water from Natha Khan Goth, Sharea Faisal, Airport and its surrounding areas,” he added.
Other major cities of Sindh, including Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Sukkur and Sanghar also received heavy rainfall. In some areas, irrigation canals overflowed and inundated villages. In all, three fatalities were reported from rural Sindh.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and its adjoining tribal regions, at least 19 people died as flash floods damaged properties and farmlands. Fatalities were reported in Chitral, Peshawar, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, FR Tank and tribal agencies of North Waziristan and Kurram.
As of now, Chitral is the worst-affected district where over 100 houses, three small power houses and eight small bridges have been swept away. Officials, however, say they haven’t been able to assess the damage in the remote areas of the district due to the difficult mountainous terrain.
In Tank district, the union councils of Warsponn, Pai and Gulam Imam were flooded where dozens of houses were damaged and farmlands affected. Local administrator Muhammad Ali Shah claimed that the floodwater was receding. In Peshawar, scores of houses were inundated when Budhni stream broke its banks, forcing people in the neighbourhood to move to safer places.
According to the Flood Control Cell, most of the rivers in the province are in normal or medium- level flood except the Kurram and Gambela rivers in Bannu district which are in high flood. Landslides triggered by heavy downpour blocked the strategic Karakoram Highway at three places, suspending traffic between Rawalpindi and Gilgit-Baltistan. “The traffic between G-B and Rawalpindi is suspended due to the blockage of the KKH,” said a spokesman for the Northern Areas Transport Corporation,” a government-sponsored transport company.
Balochistan also bore the brunt of the devastating monsoon spell. At least eight people were reportedly killed and dozens of villages submerged, displacing hundreds of people in the province. Jhal Magsi is the worst-affected district where 25 villages have been virtually washed away, according to Khalid Baloch, the director general of the PDMA. Jhal Magsi is literally cut off from the rest of the province as the main highway has been flooded.
Naseerabad district received incessant rain for 15 hours. The ensuing flood devastated over half a million acres of farmlands. In the neighbouring Jaffarabad district, the whole town, including government offices, is under knee-deep water. Several villages have also been flooded.
Similarly, Sibi, Loralai and Lasbela districts have also been affected where scores of mud-houses have been swept away by flash floods.
Hill torrents unleashed by heavy rains swept through the impoverished south Punjab where at least five people were reportedly dead and 200,000 acres of farmlands ravaged by floodwater.
To deal with the calamity, the authorities have declared a state of emergency in the districts of Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur and Jampur. All officials on leave have been called back for duty. The office of the chief minister is monitoring the situation round-the-clock.
In DG Khan, the Ronghan, Raakhi Gaaj and Vahowa areas are the worst hit where more than 100 villages have been submerged, uprooting hundreds of villagers from their homes.
In Rajanpur, the house Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Sher Ali Gorhacni and the farmhouse of former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani have also been inundated.
According to an official tally, 100,000 people have been affected by the ongoing flash floods. Some tourists are also reported to have been trapped in the tribal belt of Rajanpur.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2013.
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