DG KHAN/ CHITRAL/ GILGIT/ QUETTA/ ISLAMABAD:
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif conducted an aerial survey of the flood-ravaged Chitral district on Wednesday, as up to nine more people were reported dead in different parts of the country because of the natural calamity.
Premier Nawaz reached Chitral around 11:30am and examined the devastation caused by the floods in the upper parts of the district. Accompanied by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Senator Mushahidullah and several others, the prime minister later reached Kuragh, where he addressed the affected people. He also addressed the Chitral community – including the local elders, residents and the political leadership – at the Chitral Scouts headquarters.
“We shall not abandon the people of Chitral in this hour of distress,” said the premier, as he announced a relief package of Rs500 million from the federal government, which will be matched by Rs500 million from the K-P government, for the rehabilitation of the flood-hit areas.
He also wrote off agricultural loans of the affected farmers and asked the chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority to resolve Chitral’s electricity issues.
Announcing Rs1 billion for the construction of the Lowari Tunnel, Premier Nawaz said the project would be completed by December 2017. Two billion rupees have already been allocated for the project this year. An additional Rs7 billon would be released for it next year, he added.
He said his government would soon construct the Chakdara-Chitral Motorway. “The estimated budget for the project is Rs27 billion.”
Nawaz said the Gilgit-Chitral Highway had been handed over to the National Highway Authority (NHA) for upgrading it. He vowed that an international airport would be constructed in Chitral after the Lowari Tunnel’s construction is completed. “Chitral valley will be linked with Tajikistan and China for the economic betterment of the country.” The premier also announced setting up five utility stores in various parts of Chitral.
Addressing the people in Kuragh, Chief Minister Khattak said the province has enough money and would provide all the funds for rehabilitation. He announced that the infrastructure damaged by the flash floods would be restored within a month, while complete rehabilitation could take another six months.
He dispelled the impression of an imminent food shortage. “Abundant wheat is available at the provincial reserve centres of Chitral district.”
Later, Premier Nawaz was briefed by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chairman, the NHA chairman and the Malakand Division general officer commanding about the measures taken to provide relief and their plans for continuing their efforts.
The premier ordered that the owners of the destroyed houses be compensated with Rs500,000 each. He also told the NHA to restore and repair the damaged roads and bridges as soon as possible.
Army’s rescue efforts
The military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations, said in a statement that an army helicopter evacuated 60 people from Kuragh and Booni on Wednesday.
Residents of Garam Chashma, Mastuj, Kalash and other areas have been cut off from Chitral city for over a week. A 1,500-metre road connecting Chitral with Booni has been swept away, leaving many people stranded.
In Gilgit-Baltistan, around 250 families from three villages have been shifted to safer locations, while 66 families from Balgun and Marzigun villages have also been evacuated.
Meanwhile, some five tourists visiting from the US and the UK are stranded in Hushe Valley after the region was cut off because of the floods.
Twenty-two-year-old Hazratuddin was swept away by the flash floods in Chitral’s Shughour area on Wednesday. The locals said the exact number of casualties in the district could not be ascertained because most areas were largely inaccessible.
In G-B, at least two people were reported dead while hundreds others have been displaced as floods continue to wreak havoc in various parts of the territory.
Six bodies were also fished out in Balochistan’s Hub area as six more people are still missing after a flash flood swept away two vehicles carrying pilgrims on their way to Hazrat Baba Shah Noorani’s shrine.
Dozens of villages have been inundated in Dera Ghazi Khan after raging flood waters from the Indus River breached a protective dyke near Jakhar Imam Shah. Thousands of people are now stranded in Kot Chhutta tehsil’s villages.
According to Home Minister Shuja Khanzada, a medium-level flood is expected in six districts. He said as many as 5,000 people were evacuated in DG Khan on Wednesday.
High flood warning
The NDMA has warned that the Indus River at the Guddu and Sukkur barrages is likely to experience high flood from July 24 to 27. Therefore, the Sindh government was advised to take precautionary measures well before time to avoid any human or property loss.
The Met Office has issued warning of scattered heavy rainfall in Thatta, Badin, Hyderabad, Sajawal and Karachi during the next 24 to 36 hours. “There is also risk of flash flooding in Karachi.”
Pakistan Meteorological Department Director General Dr Ghulam Rasul said: “There is a high risk of flash flooding in lower Sindh.” Scattered thunderstorm of moderate intensity with isolated heavy rainfall is also expected in Balochistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2015.