IT is the same story year in and year out. Despite many lives lost, billions of rupees in accumulated damages and the displacement of people by natural calamities every year, the monsoon season still seems to catch the country off-guard. It appears that this year will be no different. Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman reported on Wednesday that 77 lives have already been lost in rain-related incidents thus far. The dead include a devastating number of children. Thirty-nine of the deaths occurred in Balochistan alone, where provincial authorities spent most of Tuesday fishing out bodies from ponds, streams, storm-water drains and other water bodies, or digging them up from under collapsed houses. Over the past 48 hours, rains also wreaked havoc in Balakot, where a mudslide swept away a woman and her two dozen or so cattle and landslides blocked major roads for hours, stranding tourists and locals. In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, two people were swept away by flash floods triggered by heavy rains. One of them drowned while attempting to save four children who had become stranded amidst the raging waters. The children, aged eight to 14 years, were thankfully saved by professional divers from the navy. There were reports of rains inundating low-lying areas and wreaking havoc on the city’s drainage and sewerage system, forcing some people to leave their homes. More rainfall was expected over the coming day. Similarly, two were killed and many injured in rain-related traffic accidents as heavy downpours lashed different areas of Sindh. A number of miners were reportedly trapped after rainwater entered their mines in Jhimpir. Rains also damaged railway tracks in the same area, suspending train services between Punjab and Karachi. Karachi was its usual miserable self after a spell of moderate rainfall, with sewerage overflowing and mixing with undrained rainwater on several key arteries, causing painful traffic jams.
Too many have died, and it is feared that the worst of the monsoon has yet to hit. However, it may still not be too late for the authorities to launch an emergency drive to educate the citizenry on how to remain safe in dangerous weather. Ms Rehman has declared the situation a ‘national disaster’ and urged provincial authorities to take her warnings seriously. Her words should be heeded and the relevant departments must mobilise to mitigate loss of life. Any continued complacency would be considered nothing short of criminal neglect.
Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2022