Hundreds of villages have been submerged as the flow of the Jhelum and Chenab rivers at Trimmu Headworks exceeded the limit. More than 300 villages in Athara Hazari and Ahmad Pur Sial tehsils were inundated by over 20 feet of water. Garh Maharaja and other tehsils were also affected and standing crops on more than 100,000 acres of farmlands were destroyed. Locals said four people were killed in Billi Habib and Patowana localities on Tuesday.
An estimated 500,000 inhabitants of Jhang district have been affected by the deluge, with many scrambling for shelter on roadsides, in schools and other buildings. A significant number of those affected are without any shelter.
On Wednesday, the flow of water at Head Trimmu was more than 594,000 cusecs whereas over 810,000 cusecs water was heading towards the headworks from the Chenab River and over 427,000 cusecs water from the Jhelum River.
With the help of the Pakistan Army, the administration breached Athara Hazari bund (protective wall) at three points through controlled dynamite blasts. However, areas including Rodu Sultan, Kut Faryad and Garah Marhaaja Basti have been evacuated as the water is still at very high levels.
While a major part of Jhang city has been saved through the breach, an alert has been issued for inhabitants of the city. Road links from Jhang city to Chiniot, Sargodha, Shorkot, Multan, Bhakkar, Layyah, Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, Khushab and Mianwali have been destroyed. Ahmad Kamal, the spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), said that threat to Trimmu Headworks has been averted. “Trimmu has been saved at a high cost. Five districts of Punjab — Sialkot, Gujranwala, Jhelum, Hafizabad and Narowal – have been swamped where a population of 150,000 has been affected,” Kamal told the BBC. He added that over 1,100,000 people have been affected by the deluge across the country.
Protecting Trimmu Head Works
While Trimmu headworks was at severe risk due to the floods, engineers proposed a breach in the protective wall near Athara Hazari Tuesday evening, but the breach was not made in time. Due to the delay, the protective wall near Malhoana Mor was broken and more than 50 villages were inundated. Irrigation experts believe further breaches are needed to save Trimmu headworks even as six breaches have been made from outside Trimmu to save it from unprecedented water pressure.
Locals here staged a demonstration against the administration as government officials were not planning to breach the protective wall near Athara Hazari in order to save two sugar mills belonging to ruling party leaders located here. Following the protest, the protective wall was dynamited to save Jhang city and Trimmu. Thus more than 100 villages were flooded.
Engineer Trimmu Headworks Chaudhary Muhammad Aslam Kamboh said standing crops of rice, sugarcane and fodder on 88,895 acres of farmlands were destroyed in Jhang and adjacent areas.
“According to its design, the total capacity of Trimmu is 640,000 cusecs but this was reduced to 600,000 cusecs as de-silting of the headworks was not carried out for several years,” he said. “At present, about 531,000 cusecs floodwater is passing through the headworks and it is feared that the flood water will damage Trimmu severely.”
A torrent of 810,000 cusecs water in the Chenab River is heading towards Trimmu after devastating Marala, Khanki and Qadirabad. Kamboh said the flood situation at Trimmu will persist until Friday.
An emergency has been announced at local hospitals and army troops are coordinating with rescue officials. A flood emergency has been announced in the surrounding localities of Jhang towards Multan. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has urged people living along the riverine belt of the Chenab to evacuate as floodwater approaches Multan. Thousands of villagers from Muhammadpur Ghota, Qasim Bela, Basti Jhok Shajra, Nawabpur, Ponta (Shujabad), Tahirpur, Basti Shahpur and other areas have been asked to evacuate. PDMA said 509,400 cusecs of water is flowing from Trimmu to the area.
Another breach occurred in the Jhang protective wall near Viahalna village on the Jhang-Multan-Bhakkar Road about five kilometres away from the city, in front of the Ali Abad police post. The water flooded the Jhang-Shorkot railway line and inundated crops in areas including Viahalna, Kot Kharriaran, Luck Bathar, Gilmala, and Bagh.
In the urban areas of Jhang, the flood headed towards Bagh Town Shakargang Sugar Mills owned by former federal minister and chairman Privitization Commission, Altaf Saleem, and Galaxy Textile Mills on the outskirts of Jhang city before entering the city itself.
After the breach in the Jhang protective dyke, the advance of water Jhang City Bagh Town and the two mills was slowed to a great extent. “Had the Trimmu dyke been breached by midnight on Tuesday, citizens could have been saved and a vast area around the city - Multan Road and Railway Line - would not have been deluged,” said Rao Amir Khan, a resident of the area.
After the Athara Hazari protective wall was breached, the water level dropped by approximately 1 foot along the Thata Mala dyke and by six to eight inches along the Jhang city protective dyke. Experts said the level at Trimmu is likely to reach 750,000 to 800,000 cusecs by this evening (Thursday).
Any increase in the water level at Trimmu would not have any effect on the urban population as the headworks is 30km downstream from the city area, experts said. But the increased water levels will have a devastating effect on areas beyond Trimmu in Athara Hazari, Ahmad Pur Sial and Shorkot tehsils.
Bahawalpur district is divided into three sectors – Sutlej, Chenab 1 and Chenab 2 – and eight relief camps have been set up in these three areas.
DCO Bahawalpur Imran Sikandar Baloch said 600,000 to 700,000 cusecs of water is expected to pass through Bahawalpur from today (Thursday) until Monday next week (September 15th). In Chachran Sharif SI Irrigation Saeedul Hassan said an estimated 900,000 to 10,00,000 cusecs of water is expected to pass through the area today (Thursday). Due to an increase in the water level of the Sutlej River, 19,822 cusecs of water is expected to arrive at Islam Headworks, which has a capacity of 18,000 cusecs.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2014.
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