LAHORE/MULTAN/MUZAFFARGARH: Southern Punjab started bearing the brunt of flood on Friday when a vast area of Multan region was inundated after the authorities blew up parts of embankments of River Chenab to save two vital bridges and Multan city.
Initially the embankment ahead of Muhammadwala bridge was blown up near Muhammadwala Road, causing a 150-food wide breach. Later, the other dyke was breached near Shershah bridge.
The river flow at the two places was 500,000 cusecs, much more than the strength of the embankments, which had to be breached to save Multan city from flooding and reduce pressure on the two bridges.
Dyke breaches flood over 120 villages
Floodwater gushing out of the breaches submerged 126 villages, affecting an estimated 275,000 people. A majority of the people had already been evacuated.
Muzaffargarh district was cut off from Jhang and Multan districts by the swollen River Chenab and a breach in the bank of the Rangpur Canal.
The canal bank developed the breach near Sargani Bungalow because of heavy discharge from the Trimu headworks. As a result, floodwater entered Rangpur, a town of 45,000 people, and submerged the main road connecting different areas of Jhang district.
Around 70 villages were said to have been inundated and crops over thousands of acres damaged in Kabirwala.
Upstream, floodwater was still rushing into Athara Hazari and Ahmadpur Sial towns from the breach made at Athara Hazari on Wednesday to protect Jhang.
The breaches near Multan were made against earlier assessment to the contrary. Before the breaches, government officials and Punjab Prisons Minister Waheed Arain had claimed that the two bridges had a design capacity to sustain a pressure of 1 million cusecs of water. And breaches would be made only if the water level exceeded the limit.
But DCO Zahid Saleem Gondal said the river dykes upstream of the bridges were too weak to withstand a pressure of 500,000 cusecs, therefore, they were breached at strategic points to save Multan city.
“The dykes should have had the strength to sustain the pressure of floodwater for at least 10 days. But they were too weak to withstand the pressure for one more day,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Flood Forecasting Division (FFD) said River Chenab was in high flood at Trimmu, but water level was receding. The discharge at this place was 433,857 cusecs and the FFD expected it to fall to 250,000 cusecs in 24 hours.
River Ravi was in high flood at Sidhnai with a discharge of 78,958 cusecs. The FFD expected the flow to range between 80,000 and 10,000 cusecs.
The Ravi falls into the Chenab ahead of Panjnad headworks. The FFD has forecast very high flood at the place from Sept 13 to 15 because of combined effect of flows in the two rivers. It said a peak of 700,000 to 800,000 cusecs might hit the headworks during that period.
But FFD chief Riaz Khan said it was too difficult to make an exact forecast about the peak because of diversion of the Chenab’s waters to Athara Hazari and Multan caused by three breaches.
Moderate to high flooding is likely in the hill torrents of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts and adjoining areas on Saturday (today).
RAIN AGAIN: Rain lashed the flood-hit areas again on Friday, intensifying worries of the people and the administration alike.
The Met department has forecast scattered rains with isolated heavy falls in Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Dera Ismail Khan and Zhob divisions.
Scattered thunder showers are expected in Sahiwal, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Peshawar, Malakand, Kohat, Mardan, Hazara and Bannu divisions, Islamabad, Fata, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.
The department said Kotli had received 26mm of rains, Okara 21mm, Gujranwala 20mm, Joharabad 19mm, Murree 18mm, Noorpur Thal 16mm, Chakwal 13mm, Sialkot airport 12mm, Sialkot Cantonment 7mm and Lahore and Mangla 2mm each.
Floods in Chenab and Jhelum rivers have hit 1,047 villages in Punjab over the past one week, damaging crops over 1.1 million acres of land and affecting two million people. Of them, 214,025 have been evacuated by the army and district administrations.
The Punjab Disaster Management Authority reported 10 more deaths in the flood-affected areas, raising the toll to 194.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2014