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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Pakistan declares emergency as floods swallowed 34 more lives

Some 30 million people are without shelter with thousands displaced by heavy rains, floods

Swirling floods inundated more districts and towns across Pakistan, killing another 34 people over the past 24 hours, officials and local media reported on Friday.

Swollen rivers, streams and dams burst their banks and swept through hundreds of houses, buildings and dozens of bridges, and roads in southwestern, northwestern and southern Pakistan, disconnecting several major cities, including a provincial capital, from the rest of the country.

The majority of the deaths were reported from southern Sindh, where 16 people lost their lives followed by southwestern Balochistan, where another 13 people died in the rain-related mishaps, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), a state-run agency that coordinates between different relief and rescue organizations, said on Friday.

The remaining fatalities were reported in northeastern Punjab and the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, which borders China.

Read more: Unprecedented floods in Pakistan

The latest casualties bring the total number of casualties since June 14 to 937, with nearly 1,400 injured across Pakistan, mostly in Sindh and Balochistan.

Authorities fear an increase in the death toll as hundreds of people are still missing, mainly in the mountainous regions of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab.

Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman told reporters in Islamabad that a staggering 30 million people out of the country’s 220 million people are without shelter, with thousands of them displaced and without food.

The rescue workers, however, put the number at “tens of thousands.”

Fresh destructions

At least 15 bridges and hundreds of houses have been washed away over the past 24 hours in the two provinces, according to the reports.

Fresh rains and floods have halted rail and road travel between dozens of districts in the two provinces, including the capital of Balochistan, Quetta, and the rest of the country.

The telecommunication system has also been badly affected in scores of districts and towns, with cellular and landline telephone services remaining out of order.

Balochistan Senator Samina Mumtaz told reporters that several districts in the floods-battered province are reeling from serious food shortages.

In Sindh, fresh floods caused by the latest torrential downpours inundated several major highways, including the main Indus Highway, hampering the relief efforts.

In several farther parts, army and air force planes are the only source of delivering food, water bottles, and medicines to the marooned people.

The northern and southern districts of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, were added to the list after massive downpours along with flash floods swollen rivers, swept through houses, buildings and roads, and triggered landslides.

The scenic Swat valley and adjoining Dir, and Buner districts are the hardest hit as well as the southern district of Dera Ismail Khan.

Grim scenes

Several footages aired on local broadcasters showed grim scenes, depicting the actual magnitude of the catastrophe, which is seen as bigger than the 2010 floods that inundated a fifth of Pakistan and killed over 2,000 people.

Gushing floods flowing with bullet speed swept through houses, restaurants, and buildings perched on the river banks in Swat, as stunned pedestrians looked on from a distance.

Read more: How flash floods have affected the people of Balochistan

Muddy rainwaters gushed through the streets of Quetta, washing away motorbikes, TV sets, refrigerators, and other household items, while citizens standing on rooftops watched helplessly.

In Balochistan, floodwaters washed away a 140-year-old historic railway bridge.

Hundreds of stranded people in Dadu, Badin, Sanghar, Ghotki, and other districts of Sindh were seen wading through waist-deep waters to safety. Many of the men were carrying belongings on their shoulders and heads, while women were cuddling their minor children and struggling to maintain their balance.

Rainwaters lapped against the roofs of houses in many low-lying areas, transforming the ground, streets, and even major highways into rivers.

Pakistan has already declared a national emergency and called in the army to assist the civil administration in relief and rescue operations.

Meanwhile, following the prime minister’s appeal for assistance, international organizations and financial institutions have announced an immediate aid package of more than $500 million for flood victims.

Read more: EU announces aid for Pakistan’s flood victims

The World Bank has announced $350 million, World Food Program $110 million, Asian Development Bank $20 million, and UK Aid over $40 million for flood victims, according to the premier’s office.

Anadolu with additional input from GVS News Desk