Torrential rains claim 27 lives over Eid; more thundershowers forecast

(CLOCKWISE from top left): A man struggles to keep his motorcycle above the water line; a bus driver tries to navigate the waters on Sharea Faisal; military personnel pump water out of a locality in Karachi; and, military and Rescue 1122 personnel comb through the debris of a house in Dera Ismail Khan.—Online / Dawn
(CLOCKWISE from top left): A man struggles to keep his motorcycle above the water line; a bus driver tries to navigate the waters on Sharea Faisal; military personnel pump water out of a locality in Karachi; and, military and Rescue 1122 personnel comb through the debris of a house in Dera Ismail Khan.—Online / Dawn

• 10 killed in rain-related accidents in Karachi, six each in KP and Balochistan, five in GB
• PM orders NDMA, provincial authorities to prepare for next spell; Met Office warns of more rain on the way from July 14 to 17
• Flash floods damage crops in Swabi, DI Khan, Tank, Nowshera, Malakand
• 200 houses washed away by overflowing River Winder

KARACHI/PESHAWAR/QUETTA/GILGIT: Heavy rains and flash floods claimed at least 27 lives in various parts of the country on Sunday and Monday with many houses and villages submerged, power supply suspended, standing crops and infrastructure damaged and many remote areas cut off from the rest of the population after the dilapidated roads were either submerged or destroyed.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asked authorities to closely monitor measures taken in Sindh, Balochistan and south Punjab to cope with the impending threat of another spell of torrential rains.

In Karachi, as the police and rescue officials reported at least 10 deaths owing to heavy rains from Sunday night to Monday morning, people of the disaster-hit business capital woke up on Tuesday to suspended power supply in several areas and many localities still submerged.

While the first monsoon spell may have ended on Tuesday, the Met office warned a second one is set to begin tomorrow (Thursday) and can last for four days (till Sunday). It forecast “widespread heavy to very heavy rain-wind/thundershowers” across Sindh and Balochistan.

Data compiled by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and Sindh police suggested 49 people had died in the province, including 31 in Karachi alone, in the weeklong monsoon spell from July 4. Out of these, the police data collected from July 4 to 12 showed that 26 people were electrocuted, including 18 in Karachi, and the PDMA mentioned an additional nine coal miners who drowned when rainwater entered a coal mine in Jhimpir area of Thatta. The police also said five people had drowned, while four died in roof/wall collapse accidents in Karachi.

The maximum temperature in Karachi on Monday was recorded at 34.5 degrees Celsius. Although several major roads were mostly cleared by Tuesday morning after a joint nightlong operation by the civil and military organisations, many localities remained submerged and a number of localities, mainly in the south district, complained of suspended power supply even after 24 hours. In the wee hours of Monday, the power breakdown also caused cellular service suspension in the south district.

The city’s sole power utility, K-Electric, cited flooding as the reason behind a delay in power supply restoration. By Tuesday evening, it claimed to have restored supply “to most parts of the city”.

“Just spoke to CM Syed Murad Ali Shah,” tweeted Prime Minister Sharif. “Deeply saddened by the tragic losses due to torrential rains in Karachi. I am confident that the Sindh government will rise to the occasion and bring life back to normal under the able leadership of CM Sindh. [I] Have offered to extend every possible support.”

The Sindh CM, on the other hand, sounded satisfied with his team’s performance when he interacted with the media at the CM House on Monday evening, and said the “unprecedented record rainfall” was beyond the city’s drainage system.

“The city has witnessed an unprecedented record rainfall of 136 milimetres or five inches within 12 hours (8pm Sunday to 8am Monday) and then after a brief break it started again till 11am,” he said. “Our storm water disposal system is not designed for such a heavy downpour.”

The Met office reported on Sunday night the city received up to 106.6mm of rain that intensified on Monday morning to 126.6mm.

Later, the armed forces moved in to assist the civil administration on Monday. Pakistan Navy Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations continued throughout the three days of Eidul Azha in different towns of Karachi. The navy assisted the Sindh PDMA by rescuing locals stranded in flooded homes, shifting them to safer locations and draining flood water with their own sources. The army, too, was active in relief work. As many as 388 dewatering teams of the army, Pakistan Rangers, Frontier Works Organisation and National Logistics Cell cleared the water accumulated on roads and inside buildings.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Over in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at least six people were killed in Swabi, Mardan, South Waziristan and Bajaur districts and 12 others wounded as many houses collapsed after heavy rains lashed several districts, said the PDMA on Tuesday. The torrential rains also triggered flash floods in different areas, damaging standing crops and infrastructure. Swabi, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Nowshera and Malakand were the worst affected.

A rescue and relief operation was under way in the affected areas.

A woman and two children died in Zaida, Marghuz, Thandakoi and Jhanda villages of Swabi district. Seven others were wounded when residential quarters collapsed. Three people died in Mardan, South Waziristan and Bajaur districts.

According to an official statement, 154 tents, 16 iron beds, 115 hygiene kits, 118 kitchen sets and other items had been distributed among the affected families.

Balochistan

Six people died and dozens of houses collapsed throughout Sunday and Monday across Balochistan, while many areas were cut off from the district headquarters due to submerging of roads in Lasbela, Kharan, Dera Bugti and other districts.

While monsoon rains were continuing for the last 10 days, Lasbela district suffered immense damage over the last three days as over a dozen villages in the Winder area of the district were submerged with the seasonal Winder river overflowing and entering houses, rendering hundreds of people stranded.

“Over 200 houses have completely washed away in the flash flood after the Winder river overflew,” Lasbela Deputy Commissioner Iftikhar Bugti told Dawn, adding that with the help of the navy around 500 stranded people had been rescued and families left homeless shifted to government buildings.

The Quetta-Karachi highway also remained closed for traffic due to overflowing of the Winder river. Flood water also affected the Winder-Dudder road linking the zinc and lead mining project of a Chinese company “The project is fully safe and under way,” a senior official of the company told Dawn.

Rains were also reported in Quetta, Kalat, Mastung, Dera Bugti, Barkhan, Surab, Loralai, Kohlu Darbad, Chaman, Pishin and Qila Abdullah, however, no major damages were reported.

Gilgit-Baltistan

Five teenagers died during Eid holidays in Nagar and Shigar areas on Monday, while many areas across GB were cut off from each other after several link roads, bridges, electricity supply, properties across the region were damaged from the recent flooding caused by melting glaciers.

The GB government claimed to have kicked off relief and rehabilitation activities. The floods triggered by melting glaciers blocked roads in remote areas of Ghizer, Shigar, Skardu, Ghanche, Hunza and Nagar, Diamer districts, cutting them off from each other with their residents facing problems accessing hospitals and food supplies.

Rising water levels in rivers and nullahs eroded thousands of kanals of cultivated land across GB. Meanwhile, scattered rain in the hilly areas on Monday reduced temperatures that minimised the threat of heavy melting of glaciers, rising nullahs and rivers.

According to a press release, GB Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid has directed authorities concerned to remain on high alert to deal with the post-flood situation.

More heavy rains forecast

The Punjab PDMA director general on Tuesday warned that according to the Met Department, monsoon winds from the Bay of Bengal are continuously entering the upper and central parts of the country and will create strong winds from July 13 (today) to 17.

Consequently, intermittent thundershowers (with isolated heavy falls) are expected in different parts of the country, including Lahore, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Sahiwal, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions between July 13 and 15, while Rawalpindi/Islamabad, Faisalabad, Lahore and Gujranwala will be likely affected by urban flooding on July 13 and 14.

There is a serious risk of flooding in local streams of the twin cities and Dera Ghazi Khan on July 13 and 14, while landslides are feared in Murree.

As per the instructions of Prime Minister Sharif, the district administrations should take concrete steps to protect the people and prevent possible losses. Arrangements for relocation of people to safe places should be completed, a plan devised for delivery of tents and food to the affected communities, medical and relief teams mobilised in the affected areas and immediate steps taken to prevent epidemics.

‘Remain vigilant’

Also on Tuesday, PM Sharif directed the federal and provincial governments to remain alert and vigilant in the wake of a fresh forecast of more heavy rainfall across the country. In a statement, the premier commended the National Disaster Management Authority for “extending complete support to the provincial governments and institutions on behalf of the Centre”.

Abdul Wahid Shahwani in Khuzdar also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2022

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