The death toll from ravaging monsoon floods in Pakistan neared 1,300 as government agencies and private NGOs continue with their relief operations described as a “humanitarian disaster of epic proportions”.
The death toll since June 14 has reached 1,290 with 29 people dying in the last 24 hours, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said on Saturday.
Large parts of the country remain submerged – particularly the provinces of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh in the south. At least 180 people have died in Sindh followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (138) and Balochistan (125).
At least, 1,468,019 houses have been partially or totally damaged, while 736,459 livestock have been killed due to the floods.
Aid has flowed in from a number of countries, with the first humanitarian assistance flight from France landing on Saturday morning in Islamabad. But Pakistan’s largest charity group has said there were still millions who had not been reached by aid and relief efforts.
Initial estimates of the damage have been put at $10 billion, but surveys are still being conducted along with international organisations.
Federal Minister of Poverty alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Mari said so far 723,919 families have received the 25,000 cash relief (per family) and an amount of Rs18.25 billion has been disbursed.
“Despite challenges, Benazir Income Support Programme rolled out its operations within no time after the announcement by Prime Minister [Shehbaz Sharif],” she wrote on Twitter.
MANCHAR LAKE: The water level in Manchar lake has increased “dangerously” and the authorities have directed the administration to evacuate people living in nearby communities in view of the danger of embankments breaking.
According to deputy commissioner Jamshoro, the water level of Manchar Lake is continuously rising, therefore the risk of the dam breaking has increased, warning it could break at any time.
He further added that the authorities will try till the last moment to control the situation; warning that the next 24-48 hours are critical.
The increasing levels in the lake posed a serious threat to scores of surrounding villages after the deluge completely cut off Bajera and Jhangara villages in Dadu from the rest of the district. Floodwater gushing from the lake was mounting pressure on the embankments of Danister canal and its main regulator, which has been damaged.
Official in charge of the irrigation cell for Manchar Lake Sher Mohammad Mallah said water level crossed the full capacity level of 122.8 feet RL at RD-62 point. An inflow of over 100,000 cusecs was being recorded while the discharge into the Indus River stood at 7,000 to 8,000 cusecs at Aral canal and its tail-end near Sehwan, according to irrigation engineer Mahesh Kumar.
He said truckloads of stones were being brought to strengthen the weak sections of Manchhar’s bank, while floodwater had started eroding its bank at RD-100, 72, 62, 52 and 10 points on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Jamshoro Deputy Commissioner Fariduddin Mustafa said 80 percent residents from two of the five union councils had already left, while the remaining were advised to leave in view of the critical condition of the lake’s dyke. They were being provided shelter in government buildings though private places might also be acquired to accommodate more people, he said.
He said soil erosion between RD-54 and RD-58 of the lake could be detrimental to the dyke. He quoted Irrigation Special Secretary Jamal Mangan as saying the critical situation was reported on Saturday evening due to the wind at the dyke.
ARMY RESCUE: Briefing the media on rescue and relief efforts by the armed forces, Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Babar Iftikhar paid rich tribute to Balochistan Corps Commander Lt Gen Sarfraz Ali and others who were martyred in a helicopter crash while serving the nation amid floods.
Corps commander conferences held in July and August reaffirmed commitment to provide all possible help to flood affectees and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa gave special directions in this regard, he added.
“The army chief visited flood-affected areas and monitored the rescue operations,” the spokesperson said, adding that the army officials rescued people despite bad weather and other challenges.
“Army set up 147 relief camps across the country [to facilitate the flood victims],” Babar Iftikhar added. He maintained that 50,000 people were given relief in the camps.
Pakistan Air Force rescued over 1,521 people trapped in the floods, the military’s spokesperson said.
MET OFFICE FORECAST: The Met Office has forecast that upper regions of the country may receive thundershowers for the next three to four days, though Sindh, Balochistan and south Punjab are expected to experience hot and humid weather during these days.
It said weak monsoon currents from the Arabian Sea were penetrating upper and central parts of the country.
Under the influence of this weather system, rain-wind/thundershower (with isolated heavy falls) is expected in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Islamabad/Rawalpindi, Murree, Attock, Chakwal, Jhelum, Sialkot, Narowal, Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sheikhupura, Mianwali, Khushab, Sargodha, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin, Jhang and Faisalabad from Saturday night to Tuesday.
It said rain-wind/thundershower (with isolated heavy falls) is also expected in Dir, Swat, Kohistan, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Haripur, Malakand, Bajaur, Peshawar, Mardan, Charsadda, Swabi, Nowshera, Kurram, Kohat and Waziristan on Sunday (today) and Monday.