MORE than 250,000 people in Balochistan have either been rendered homeless or severely affected by a cyclone which lashed the coastal areas and the heavy rainfall which almost paralysed major parts of the province. At least 24 people have been reported killed in floods and rain-related incidents.
Relief Commissioner Khuda Bakhsh Baloch told Dawn ‘a large number of people — about 250,000 — have been badly affected and they need immediate help’. He said the provincial government was sending relief goods and using helicopters to rescue people marooned in various areas.
Sources said that besides 24 people reported dead, many more were missing as a large number of villages had been washed away by hill torrents and floods. Most of the seasonal rivers have broken their banks, destroying villages in three union councils near Turbat.
“A passenger bus carrying a wedding party has been reported missing while going to Buleida,” the sources said, adding that it had not reached its destination till late Wednesday evening.
Hundreds of electricity poles have been uprooted, a large number of bridges, culverts and causeways have been washed away by continuous rainfall over the past 40 hours and about a dozen large and small reservoirs are overflowing, causing severe flooding.
Dozens of villages in Mashkhel were submerged when hill torrents from the Sarawan area, in Iranian Balochistan, hit the plains on Tuesday night. Reports of widespread rains were received from almost all parts of the province.
The areas upstream of Mirani dam, from the reservoir to Turbat, were inundated causing widespread damage to homes and food stocks. “Nothing is left in the villages in three union councils of Turbat,” a local resident reached by mobile phone told Dawn.
Kech Kaur was in high flood and its discharge near Turbat was at 300,000 cusecs. The discharge of Nihing river was also at the level of 300,000 cusecs, matching the floods of 1998.
The rain system is gradually moving to Iranian Balochistan causing heavy rains in the catchment area of Nihing which feeds the Mirani dam. It has also led to heavy floods in seasonal rivers in the region.
People in areas downstream from the Mirani dam reservoir to Sunt Sar where the Dasht river falls into the Arabian Sea, have left their homes and taken refuge on high ground. They have refused to move back to their villages, not trusting officials’ assurances about their safety.
They alleged that officials responsible for protecting the Mirani dam were not attending their phone calls and refusing to allow them to go to the dam site to make their own assessment. They say that the water level has already crossed the danger mark and more water is entering the reservoir. They feared the dam might burst any time.
Qambar Baloch of Dasht claimed that people had to make their own assessment about safety in the absence of credible information about the situation on the Mirani dam. He said that thousands of people had moved to higher ground fearing that the dam might burst.
Provincial Home Secretary Tariq Ayub confirmed that the situation was grave in Turbat region. “The dam wall is 284 feet high while the water level has reached 265 feet,” he told Dawn. He quoted experts as saying that the dam was safe, although facing threat because of constant inflow into the reservoir in view of heavy rains in catchment areas.
Mr Ayub confirmed that scores of people were marooned in downstream areas, in Sol Bund and adjoining villages.
They confirmed that flood water entered the Turbat city after the Kech river broke its banks. Thousands of people have been affected.
He said that 300 people were marooned in Kalatuk, near Turbat, and more than 200 people in a village about 25 kilometres from Ormara, on the Balochistan coast.
Mr Ayub said four helicopters were carrying out relief and rescue work. Two of them were in Turbat and Pasni region, one in Gandawa and adjoining areas and the fourth one in Lasbela region.
Mir Naved Baloch, president of the Zamindars Association, of Gwadar, said the government was not providing any help to the people marooned in the upstream area of Kech Kaur near Turbat. They were without shelter, water and food and the government was seen nowhere.
The Nazim of Turbat, Mir Abdul Rauf Rind, said he had no resources to help the affected people.
In Chagai, Naushki, Washuk and Kharan districts widespread rains and floods have affected the normal lives of people, but no loss of life was reported till the filing of this report. However, roads and the basic infrastructure have been damaged. In central Balochistan, rail traffic was disrupted following landslides near Mach and all trains to and from Quetta have stopped and rail service discontinued. Officials of Pakistan Railways moved heavy machinery to clear the track.
According to the provincial home secretary, rail traffic between Quetta and Zahidan was suspended following breaches on the line at more than six places. He said that the railways authorities were plugging the breaches.
Dozens of villages were inundated in Gandawa, Jaffarabad and Jhal Magsi, in central Balochistan. All roads are under water and communication network and power supply have been disrupted, causing shortage of food and other essential items.
The Pasni region has been devastated with scores of reservoirs overflowing, washing away a number of villages. The residence of provincial minister Syed Sher Jan was also under water.
Provincial government’s spokesman Razik Bugti said rescue operations by the Pakistan navy and army was in full swing and helicopters were moving the marooned people to safe places.
The road communication remained disrupted in all parts of Balochistan, with hundreds of bus passengers stranded on the Coastal Highway. Pakistan Army personnel are providing them food and other relief goods.
The National Highway Authority claimed that traffic would be restored on the Coastal Highway in 36 hours. Official sources confirmed that the Coastal Highway had been damaged extensively at least at six places.
Army officials told newsmen that more than 5,000 people had been rescued from the Mulla Bund area of Gwadar.