Natural calamity: Flash floods leave trail of destruction in Chitral

200,000 people stranded across the district; 240 bridges washed away

Heavy rains have washed away roads in Chitral Valley. PHOTO: INP


Flash floods triggered by glacial lake outbursts and cloudbursts ravaged Chitral for the fifth consecutive day on Monday.

The Pakistan Army is carrying out rescue missions, while Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak has doled out Rs1 million for providing immediate assistance.

Although other parts of the province and the tribal belt have also been affected by heavy downpour, Chitral has been in the thick of the calamity.

Infrastructure has been the worst-hit and the upper areas of the district have virtually been cut off from the rest of Chitral, leaving as many as 200,000 people stranded.

Read: Raining death: Flash flood rampage continues on sixth day

According to unofficial sources, three women were killed in separate parts of the valley, but the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) put the number of deaths at two.

Initial assessment has revealed massive damages, while officials have reason to believe that the actual situation could be much worse.

The PDMA said the available machinery and manpower had already been deployed for temporary opening of routes to restore communication.

The district administration requires heavy machinery and technical expertise from the National Highway Authority to repair the damage.

Around 40 connecting bridges and more than 200 smaller bridges have been washed away. An estimated 175 houses were completely destroyed while over 200 others were partially damaged.

Three towns of Latkoh tehsil – Garam Chashma, Arkari and Karimabad – have been inaccessible for the past six days.

Electricity and water supply systems have also been destroyed, while a shortage of edible items has also been reported.

“These are destructive rains,” said Meteorological Office Peshawar Director Mushtaq Ali Khan, adding that the phenomenon of glacial lake outbursts is new to Chitral. “The effects will exacerbate with time.”

According to a statement issued by the military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations, around 50 people have been rescued from the troubled areas while eight tonnes of edible items have been distributed among the affected.

Malakand interim commissioner Mahmood Islam Wazir told the media that Chitral has been declared disaster-struck and the government has announced an additional Rs10 million for food aid. He said the K-P Revenue Department would submit a report in this regard in three days.

Meanwhile, at least 25 mud houses were destroyed by flash floods in a remote village of Kandiya tehsil in Upper Kohistan, said the police.

Standing maize and vegetable crops, and the villagers’ cattle and other belongings were swept away, but no loss of life was reported there.

However, a girl was killed in the Bakarabad area of Jamrud in Khyber Agency when the roof of a house collapsed because of the heavy downpour.

Swept away

At least 25 mud houses, standing crops were destroyed and cattle swept away by heavy flash floods in a remote village of Kandiya tehsil of Upper Kohistan, police said. No loss of human life was reported.

Police said the heavy downpour started Friday night and continued till the next evening in Banda Gabral. Villager Noor Wali confirmed over the phone that residences destroyed in the flood were mud houses. The Upper Kohistan DC, DPO and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Abdul Sattar Khan were unavailable for comments. Meanwhile, Lower Kohistan remained safe during the floods, said the police and locals.

Balochistan destruction

Three children were killed and more than a dozen people injured in rain-related incidents in the northern parts of Balochistan, where torrential rains played havoc and disrupted road communication.

In the area near FC Colony in Kohlu, three children were reported dead and four others injured when the roofs of a mosque and a nearby house collapsed. Heavy rains were also reported in Sherani and Zhob districts. The official vehicle of Sherani’s deputy commissioner was swept away in hill torrents, causing injuries to two Levies officials. The deputy commissioner, however, was rescued unhurt.

The protection wall of Sherani was washed away by hill torrents as well, flooding the residential township and the nearby villages. A bridge linking Zhob and Sherani also collapsed, suspending road communication. Heavy rains were also reported in Ziarat, as the downstream in Sibi Valley of the plains was inundated.

Read: Monsoon rains: Urgent steps must be taken to deal with flood threat, says CM

Punjab situation

Intermittent rains over the weekend led to a medium-level flood in Taunsa Barrage and caused flash floods near the Sulaiman Range.

A flood in River Indus near Layyah caused a dyke breach, prompting the district administration to evacuate villages in the area.

Layyah DCO Rana Gulzar said 500 feet of Sippar Wala dyke was washed away after water levels rose. He said 20 villages were inundated. Gulzar said 12 villages in Sultanpur and Pahaarpur had been evacuated, adding that Kehror Pakka was the worst-hit by the floods.

Weather updates

The PMD has issued a red alert for flash flooding in local nullahs and streams of Punjab, upper K-P, eastern Balochistan and Kashmir for the next three days.

The Met Office has warned the local authorities to take preventive measures to avoid any kind of human or property loss.

PMD meteorologist Muzammil Hussain said the second spell of monsoon would continue across the country until July 30, with weak to moderate showers with short intervals.

He said hot and humid weather would persist across the country, adding that the humidity level had reached 70 per cent.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.