Flood ‘14: Roaring torrents enter Sindh

Torrent was expected to reach Sukkur Barrage by midnight on Tuesday & will pass through Kotri Barrage after 72 hours



ISLAMABAD/ ALIPUR/SUKKUR:


An estimated 400 villages have been submerged in Alipur district of Punjab and almost 100,000 people displaced within the last 48 hours after the Zameendara dyke was destroyed due to the pressure of floodwater. Meanwhile, an estimated 450,000 cusecs of water will reach Guddu Barrage this morning (Wednesday). The torrent was expected to reach Sukkur Barrage by midnight on Tuesday and will pass through Kotri Barrage after 72 hours. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said on Tuesday that the death toll from Punjab has risen by eight, revising the over fatality count to 318.


As a confluence of five rivers entered Rajanpur district, an estimated 15,000 people have been shifted by the police to safer spots. Fifteen relief camps have been organised in the district and DPO Rajanpur Zahid Mehmood said the authorities are facing problems convincing people to move here and leave their livestock, properties and lands behind.

According to Assistant Commissioner Alipur Qayyum Qudrat 50,000 acres of maize, rice and cotton crops have been destroyed in Alipur district as well as mango orchards within the last 48 hours. Ten relief camps have been organised here. While 50 villages near the riverbed have been inundated, a red alert has been issued in the district.

The water level is expected to hit 0.6 million cusecs at Chacharan Sharif, while the maximum limit is 1.4 million cusecs. In district Rahim Yar Khan, more than 50 mobile medical camps and 100 relief camps have been set up.

The water level at head Punjnad has fallen to almost 475,000 cusecs in the last 24 hours, whereas it hit 600,000 cusecs on Monday. On the other side of head Punjnad, 40,000 people have been displaced in sub-district Uch Sharif in district Bahawalpur over the last 24 hours. Additional Chief Secretary Punjab has suspended Assistant Commissioner Muzaffargarh Sajjad Husnain for the failure to devise a policy to stop water entering district Muzaffargarh.

Corp Commander Bahawalpur Lieutenant General Javed Iqbal visited all the dykes and embankments in district Rahim Yar Khan and met with flood victims. The water has started to decrease in Sher Shah and Head Muhammad Wala dyke and civil and military administration will begin temporary repairs on the roads here today (Wednesday). Ground communications in the Multan and Muzaffargarh districts are still suspended in some urban and all rural areas. The civil administration said those affected by the flood can return to their homes after Friday.

Meanwhile police arrested former Muzaffargarh mayor Bashir Khan and many residents of Bhuttapur who were trying to shift the flow of water from Bhuttapur to the urban areas of district Muzaffargarh. A minor breach in the Dera Ghazi Khan link canal was filled by residents of Basti Sheikhani. Two villages in Dera Ghazi Khan district were hit by water.

Situation in Sindh

Irrigation officials said an estimated 750,000 cusecs to 800,000 cusecs of water was headed towards Sindh but the water has dispersed after authorities in Punjab breached protective bunds at various places to save barrages and major cities.

According to reports from upper Sindh, most of the protective bunds which had developed breaches during the 2010 floods have been repaired, but, as noted by the Sindh chief minister during his visits to the bunds last week, the work has not been satisfactory. Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA) Director Anwar Sial has thereby been replaced by Aijaz Ahmed Shaikh.

An irrigation official requesting anonymity said ministers, elected representatives and party leaders are visiting protective bunds today, due to which many officials are tied up in protocol rather than tending to their duties. A considerable ratio of the funds allocated for the repair and maintenance of the bunds has been diverted to such VIP visits, he said. “It seems the bunds have been turned into picnic spots by these officials,” he added.

Residents of katcha areas are not ready to leave their homes but have shifted their livestock to safe areas. In Naushehro Feroze and Dadu districts, schools have been converted into relief camps. However, these camps remain empty despite announcements by the district administration.

In Ghotki, the Qadirpur loop bund, Shaink bund and other bunds are reportedly in good enough condition to withstand a medium-level flood. If the Machko bund in Ubauro, situated in the limits of Rahim Yar Khan district, is breached, the water will flood lands in Sindh. According to reports, neither the Punjab nor Sindh government looks after this particular bund, upon which locals have constructed houses, shops and toilets.

Director SIDA Ghotki Aijaz Ahmed Shaikh explained that the Machko bund falls under the Punjab government’s jurisdiction. He claimed the Sindh government has moved heavy machinery to the bund to strengthen it, adding, “There is nothing to worry about.” He said encroachment on the bunds is not new, nor particular to Machko. “Most of the bunds throughout Sindh have been encroached upon and it is the responsibility of the district administrations to remove the encroachments,” he said.

According to the in-charge at Sukkur Barrage control room Abdul Aziz Soomro, the pond level at Tarbella Dam on Tuesday was 1548.37 feet and less than two feet of water is needed to fill the dam to capacity. The inflow at Tarbella Dam was 83,000 cusecs and outflow was 53,000 cusecs. Upstream and downstream at Panjnand was recorded at 45,3570 cusecs, while at Guddu barrage upstream the level recorded was 273,906 cusecs and downstream was 248,654 cusecs. At Sukkur barrage upstream recorded was 163,005 cusecs and downstream was 109,595 cusecs, while at Kotri barrage upstream was 291,35 cusecs and no water is being released in its downstream, he added.

Toll rises

The total affected population in Punjab is now 2.23 million and 34,052 houses have been damaged while 2909 villages have been affected in the province. In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 64 people have been killed and 46,498 people affected by the floods.

NDMA has initiated the Multi Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) process to assess damage in the districts of Mandi Bahauddin, Hafizabad, Chiniot, Jhang and Multan. Assessment will be carried out by teams from the United Nations (UN), NGOs and government officials.  The assessment is expected to be completed by September 20 and a report submitted by the 26th.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2014.

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