Tenacious disaster: 300,000 families displaced in Chitral

3 Gilgit-Baltistan valleys cut off, causing food shortage

A suspension bridge over the Chitral River was destroyed by flash floods. PHOTO: APP


Around 300,000 families in upper and lower Chitral have been affected by flash floods induced by torrential monsoon rains and fast-melting glaciers. Around 60,000 families have been affected in Mastuj, 25,000 in Kalash valleys and the remaining in other parts of the district, including Boni, Garam Chashma and Orghoch.

Declaring an emergency in the district, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has approved Rs140 million for restoration of link roads and relief activities.

Addressing a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club on Tuesday, provincial  Information Minister Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani said 26 villages had been affected in Chitral, where 103 houses were destroyed and 63 partially damaged. The roads linking Chitral with Drosh, Orghoch, Garam Chashma, Bamboret, Mastuj and Boni have been destroyed.

Read: Flash floods, torrential rain, leave six dead in K-P, Balochistan

Dozens of other link roads, major bridges and the suspension bridges connecting valleys and villages have been swept away in the gushing waters. A hotel, a private college and around 25 water supply schemes have also been swept away.

Ghani said efforts were under way to provide potable water from the Golen Gol water supply schemes to the affected people. He added that the Communication & Works secretary and other senior officials had been sent to Chitral to monitor relief activities.

He said the district administration had Rs20 million in its relief account, adding that the deputy commissioner was directed to purchase all the necessary items. “The district administration has enough food and medicine stocks for the affected families.”

Meanwhile, army chief Gen Raheel Sharif has directed the Pakistan Army to make all-out efforts to help and extend all possible assistance to the people in the flood-hit areas of Chitral and elsewhere in the country. Army officials continued rescue operations in the worst-hit areas of Chitral, where the army and the Frontier Corps as well as the civil administration have distributed 16 tonnes of food packages. The Frontier Corps also donated 100 tonnes of food items to the flood affected people.

Visiting Kuragh, Peshawar Corps Commander Lt-Gen Hidayatur Rahman announced despatching 125 tonnes of food packages to the affected people. He promised the people that the army would never leave them alone in this hour of need. “The army will leave no stone unturned in rehabilitation of the affected families.”

The troops also evacuated more than 73 stranded individuals from Garam Chashma, Kuragh and Bamboret to safer places. The army has dedicated two Mi-17 helicopters for relief and rescue operations in Chitral. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had to postpone his scheduled visit to Chitral because of bad weather. He is expected to reschedule once the weather improves.

G-B valleys cut off

In Gilgit-Baltistan, flash floods cut off at least three valleys in Diamer and Baltistan. The valleys in Diamer – including Niat, Buner and Fairy Meadows – have been experiencing food shortages because of lack of connection with the outside world.

“The roads and bridges have been washed away in these valleys,” said Diamer Deputy Commissioner Usman Ahmed.

He held a meeting with the community of Buner Das, about 20 kilometres upstream from Chilas town on the Karakoram Highway to assess the situation.

He said the village is irrigated through a single channel that also provides water to the Buner power house, which is the sole energy source for the entire Gohar Abad area.

“Due to the flash flood, the head works of the channel have completely washed away, rendering the entire population without water for drinking and irrigation,” reads Ahmed’s report.

Nearly 300 people worked on self-help basis for more around a week to temporarily restore the channel. As a token of appreciation, the government awarded Rs250,000 to the entire community.

Meanwhile, several small villages in Shigar valley have also been inundated, forcing people to seek refuge in safer places.

Situation in Punjab

In Rahim Yar Khan, the Indus River has flooded the riverside areas. Crop fields spread on thousands of acres have been completely destroyed, while more than 100 families have moved to safer areas on their own due to insufficient arrangements made by the district and tehsil governments. A large number of people are still said to be stranded in the flooded localities.

Read: Calamity: Govt responsible for floods: Qadri

The water level in the Indus River has been increasing continuously as a result of torrential rainfall in the Koh-e-Sulaiman area, Dera division and K-P.

‘Sindh to remain safe’

According to the Met Office, a medium flood carrying 500,000 cusecs of water is expected to pass through the barrages of Sindh on July 25 without causing any harm.

Meanwhile, condoling with the people of Chitral, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has directed the Sindh government to take proper measures to minimise the effects of flood in the province.

Wake-up call

Fast melting glaciers in the northern areas of the country during monsoon season and the resultant flash floods is a wake-up call for the K-P and G-B governments to start planning to tackle the situation.

Pakistan Meteorological Department Director General Dr Ghulam Rasul told The Express Tribune that the fast melting glaciers were an impact of climate change, adding that Pakistan lacked a dedicated plan to deal with this situation.

He said there was no concept of an early warning system in majority of the areas with glaciers. “There is a need to extend the early warning system in all these areas.”

Dr Rasul warned of chances of heavy isolated thundershowers in the catchment areas in the coming days that could cause floods.

According to the Met Office, widespread rains and thundershowers are expected in Hazara, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Lahore, Islamabad and Kashmir in the next 24 hours.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2015.


Mariam Khan | 8 years ago | Reply Is it really 300,000 families or 300,000 individuals?
Sparrow | 8 years ago | Reply Why do our leaders have to worry about such clamaties which are to be tackled by the Army especially advised to keep their personal lands in the area safe and clear of flood water havoc.
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