Rescue operations underway across Pakistan as high-level floods in Indus, Kabul rivers wreak havoc

<p>People remove mud that came with the deluge from near their their damaged shops following heavy monsoon rains in Mingora, a town in the Pakistan’s northern Swat Valley on August 27, 2022. — AFP</p>

People remove mud that came with the deluge from near their their damaged shops following heavy monsoon rains in Mingora, a town in the Pakistan’s northern Swat Valley on August 27, 2022. — AFP

<p>Residents of Nowshera are being moved to relief camps after high-level floods were reported in the Kabul River. — Photo by Sirajuddin</p>

Residents of Nowshera are being moved to relief camps after high-level floods were reported in the Kabul River. — Photo by Sirajuddin

<p>Stranded people are evacuated from flood affected areas after heavy monsoon rains in Charsadda district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on August 27, 2022. — AFP</p>

Stranded people are evacuated from flood affected areas after heavy monsoon rains in Charsadda district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on August 27, 2022. — AFP

Pakistan witnessed another day of deaths and devastation on Saturday as dozens of people were left dead and thousands stranded as a result of landslides and floods in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa amid "high to very high" floods in Kabul and Indus rivers.

Meanwhile, a rain emergency remained in place in several areas of the province in the wake of unprecedented rains that pushed most of the country into a crisis.


The day's developments

  • Death toll from floods, landslides in Swat reaches 24 as 12 more killed
  • Peshawar corps evacuates 22 stranded people from Kumrat
  • KP CM's helicopter deployed to rescue stranded tourists, deliver food in isolated areas
  • Evacuations underway in several KP areas amid a 'very high flood' in Nowshera, where the water level in the Kabul River has risen above 300,000 cusecs
  • 150 tourists reported stranded in Upper Dir, Kalam and Swat for the past 3 days
  • Pesco instructed to ensure uninterrupted power supply to all KP districts
  • PM Shehbaz reaches Sujawal district in Sindh to review relief and rescue efforts, announces Rs38 billion for flood affectees
  • Army chief visits flood-hit areas of Balochistan as military troops accelerate relief operations across the country
  • KP CM visits flood-affected areas in Swat and Lower Dir, announces Rs1 billion for victims
  • Damage to optical fibre cables and power outages affecting internet services in several areas of KP, says PTA
  • Gilgit-Baltistan suffers financial losses amounting to Rs10 billion during floods, says information minister
  • PTI chief Imran Khan announces telethon to raise funds for flood affectees

At present, more than half of Pakistan is under water and millions of people have been rendered homeless as a result of flash flooding generated by abnormal monsoon rains which have entered their eighth spell with no signs of subsiding.

According to the latest estimates, nearly 1,000 people, including 300 children, have lost their lives because of rains and resulting flooding that has impacted nearly 33 million people – almost 15 per cent of the country’s population.

Deaths in Swat, tourists stranded in Lower Dir

A day after a rain emergency was declared in Swat, the district's additional deputy commissioner, Abrar Wazir, said on Saturday that landslides and floods had claimed a total of 24 lives in different areas.

The first dispatch of relief items reaches from Kabal to Kalam in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. — Photo courtesy Swat Deputy Commissioner
The first dispatch of relief items reaches from Kabal to Kalam in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. — Photo courtesy Swat Deputy Commissioner

On Friday, 12 deaths in the district were linked to rains, floods and related incidents.

The additional deputy commissioner said in a statement on Saturday that 28 people were also injured by the flash floods in different parts of the district, adding that the floods washed away 233 houses, 41 schools, over 50 hotels and 24 bridges according to the data collected so far.

Wazir said the floods washed about 130 kilometres of roads in Swat. He said the district's irrigation department measured 121,326 cusecs of water in the evening while restoration and rehabilitation activities were also launched by the district administration.

He added that post-flood vaccination and deworming in various areas of the district were also launched as vaccination teams of the livestock department reached the affected areas to treat animals.

The official said a team had been constituted to estimate the extent of further damage.

KP Secretary of Information and Public Relations Arshad Khan said that over 500,000 cusecs of water had flooded the province.

"The government has started rescue and relief efforts in all affected areas, while the work on the restoration of road infrastructure is going on on an emergency basis," he told media persons in Swat, adding that 10 tonnes of rations were delivered so far.

Arshad also said that the helicopter used by KP CM had been deployed for the flood operations. "It will be used to rescue tourists stranded across the province and to provide food items to isolated areas."

The government has further sought more helicopters from the Pakistan Army, the official added.

By Saturday evening, the first helicopter from Kabal left for Kalam. Swat Deputy Commissioner Junaid Khan said that it would bring back tourists stranded in Kalam. "Once it lands, the tourists will be sent back home via special local transport," he said.

There were reports of 30 tourists being stranded in Upper Dir as well. Deputy Commissioner Akmal Khan Khattak told Dawn.com that they were safe and had been accommodated in hotels.

"About 15 people are stranded on the left side of the river along with the hotel staff," he added.

In Shangla, the district administration has started dispatching non-food relief items to all the tehsils, District Disaster Management Officer (DDMO) Muneeba Fatima told Dawn.com.

Rescue 1122 teams in Lower Kohistan continue rescue operations. — Photo by Umar Bacha
Rescue 1122 teams in Lower Kohistan continue rescue operations. — Photo by Umar Bacha

She said that the district's revenue staff was at the field collecting information on the damage.

Separately, officials of Rescue 1122 told Dawn.com that seven people stranded near the Ranolia River in Kohistan have been rescued.

Twenty-two people were also evacuated from Kumrat after troops of the Peshawar corps established contact with them, according to a press release from the military's media wing.

The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release said families from Islamabad were stranded in Kumrat due to sudden flash floods and could not be evacuated due to the bad weather.

"Continuous contact is maintained with them and those families have been shifted to safer places around those mountains tops. Those people are safe and will be evacuated by army aviation helicopters as and when weather permits," the ISPR said, adding that a ground party was also ready from Khwazakhela for evacuation.

The ISPR requested the public not to travel towards Swat and its surrounding areas due to flash floods.

'Very high flood' in Kabul River

Meanwhile, Nowshera Deputy Commissioner (DC) Mir Reza Ozgen renewed his call for the relocation of the district's residents to safer places as flow in Kabul River rose above 300,000 cusecs, resulting in a "very high flood" in the water body.

According to DawnNewsTV, the flooding caused widespread devastation in the district, submerging several villages.

On Friday, the Kabul River and Swat River in KP experienced “very high floods” at several other locations, triggering evacuations by the authorities from low-lying areas and imposition of emergency in many districts.

Subsequently, calls were made for the evacuation of residents from Nowshera and Charsadda keeping in view the increased risk of flooding as water levels in the rivers rose and part of Munda headworks, which regulates the flow of the Swat River, collapsed.

Displaced people take refuge along a highway after fleeing from their flood hit homes following heavy monsoon rains in Charsadda district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on August 27, 2022. — AFP
Displaced people take refuge along a highway after fleeing from their flood hit homes following heavy monsoon rains in Charsadda district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on August 27, 2022. — AFP

The Nowshera DC urged for evacuations again in the morning, saying in a statement that there was a "very high flood" in the Kabul River in the district.

"The water level in the Kabul River in Nowshera has crossed 250,000 cusecs," said the statement, adding the water level was rising further.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority in KP issued a statement around the same time, saying that the water level in the river in Nowshera was recorded at 315,262 cusecs. It added that the river's water level in Virk had reached 130,364 cusecs.

Meanwhile, the Nowshera DC appealed to citizens to move to safer locations. He said relief camps had been set up for people affected by floods and urged them to shift there.

Meanwhile, flood water entered the district's Pir Sabaq area, yet again prompting the district administration to urge citizens to relocate.

Nowshera Additional Deputy Commissioner Quratul Ain Wazir told Dawn.com on Saturday evening that all the people had been evacuated from the low-lying areas of the district. "We are closely monitoring the flood situation and water level of the Kabul River," she told Dawn.com

The district administration, army and rescue teams were deployed on standby, the ADC said, adding that the danger was not over yet.

The additional deputy commissioner added that protection walls along the Kabul River had collapsed in Pir Sabaq and as a result, water had entered houses and markets.

Displaced people take refuge along a highway after fleeing from their flood hit homes following heavy monsoon rains in Charsadda district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on August 27, 2022. — AFP
Displaced people take refuge along a highway after fleeing from their flood hit homes following heavy monsoon rains in Charsadda district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on August 27, 2022. — AFP

Sharing details about other areas, she said evacuations were underway since last night and so far, 700 families from the Pashtun Gari area had been shifted to a relief camp while another 300 had been evacuated from Pabbi.

"Our top priority is rescue operations to save lives," she said, adding that the administration had also provided food packages and other relief items to those affected by floods.

Evacuations in several other areas of KP had begun on Friday as they witnessed devastation with the Kabul River and Swat River experiencing “very high floods” at many spots.

A district administration official told Dawn at the time that nearly 200,000 people were evacuated to safer places in Charsadda by Friday night.

A general view of a flooded area after heavy monsoon rains is pictured from atop a bridge in Charsadda district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on August 27. — AFP
A general view of a flooded area after heavy monsoon rains is pictured from atop a bridge in Charsadda district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on August 27. — AFP

According to the PDMA report on Saturday, the district administration has established 17 relief camps in the district where 2,230 people have been accommodated. Meanwhile, 180,000 residents have been moved to safer locations.

Separately, KP Finance Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra visited Charsadda along with local leaders.

In a tweet, he said that 183,000 people had been evacuated from the district, adding that a similar operation was underway in Nowshera.

"The economic cost will be huge. But we will pull out all the stops," he assured.

According to Rescue 1122, relief and rescue operations continued on Saturday in Peshawar as well.

A statement issued by Rescue 1122 said Mian Gujjar, Jala Bela, Takhtabad and other areas were affected by floods in the city.

It added that a relief camp had been set up by Rescue 1122 at the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority tweeted that damages to optical fibre cables and power outages have been reported in Chitral, Upper Dir, Donbala, Swat, Medan, Lal Qila Simarbaghdir, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan, impacting connectivity services.

"PTA is monitoring the situation closely. Work is underway to fully restore services," it added.

The death toll from rain-induced floods was recorded at 42 in the province by Friday night.

KP CM announces Rs1 billion for victims

Later in the day, KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, accompanied by PTI leader Murad Saeed, visited flood-hit areas of Swat and Lower Dir to assess the damage caused by the floods and overview the relief efforts underway.

Talking to media persons in Mingora, he announced Rs1 billion for flood victims across the province. "Another Rs5 billion will be approved soon too."

He said that the government has commenced a helicopter service for Swat to assist with rescue operations. "We are trying to provide every possible assistance to every person affected."

The CM highlighted that Kalam road had been affected in three places, emphasising that its restoration was the first priority. He also urged the federal government to step up and announce funds for Swat and other areas of KP saying that the damage inflicted there was unprecedented.

"Whatever may come, I promise that I will not leave the side of even a single person during these tough times," Mahmood added.

Meanwhile, PTI's Saeed said that relief work had been started on a priority basis and promised that Swat would be "cleaned" and tourists in the district will be rescued within the next 24 hours.

Ahead of the CM's visit, the Malakand commissioner told Dawn.com that over 150 tourists were stuck in Lower Dir, Swat and Kalam for the past three days.

Separately, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Political and Public Affairs Amir Muqam chaired a high-level meeting and imposed an emergency at the Peshawar Electric Power Company (Pesco).

He instructed the company to provide uninterrupted power supply to all districts of KP, keeping in view of the emergency situation.

PM visits Sujawal, allocates Rs38 billion to assist flood affectees

In Sindh, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reached Sujawal on Saturday to visit flood-affected areas in the district, review relief work and also meet flood victims.

He was accompanied by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

During the visit, the Sindh chief secretary, Provincial Disaster Management Authority director general and local administration, among others, briefed the prime minister about the ongoing relief and rehabilitation activities in the district.

Speaking to the media, the PM said that the federal government had allocated a grant of Rs38 billion to support each flood-affected family with a disbursement of Rs25,000.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks to the media in Peshawar. — APP
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks to the media in Peshawar. — APP

Speaking to the flood-affected people, the premier said he had already announced a grant of Rs15 billion to Sindh province while the distribution of flood relief amount among each family had commenced in Sindh province after Balochistan under Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP)

"Unfortunately, huge losses are being witnessed across the country, but with joint and continuous efforts, we will overcome the challenges faced in the wake of this natural catastrophe," he said, also expressing concern over the worsening flood situation in KP.

In Swat and Kalam, he said, flash floods had caused human and financial losses and swept away road infrastructure and bridges. And now, the premier continued, the flood was heading towards Charsadda and Nowshera.

The PM also mentioned that Munda headworks had been severely damaged due to floods in KP.

He assured that district administrations, rescue agencies and the armed forces had been fully supporting relief operations and evacuating people to safe places.

In a tweet later, PM Shehbaz said that the magnitude of the calamity was bigger than estimated and called on the nation to come together and fund the victims.

Meanwhile, in Punjab's Dera Ghazi Khan, Rescue 1122 teams shifted people to safer locations in boats after water entered houses and washed away other buildings, the provincial government said in a tweet on Saturday.

It added that they were utilising all the resources to provide aid to the flood affectees.

Imran announces international telethon to raise funds

Separately, PTI Chairman Imran Khan announced that he would hold an international telethon to raise funds for flood affectees on Monday.

"Imran Tigers will be activated to volunteer for relief work. A committee under Sania Nishtar will be set up to identify and coordinate funds allocation based on needs," he tweeted.

Dozens killed in Gilgit-Baltistan, houses and roads washed away

Rain and floods have not spared Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) as well, the provincial disaster management authority's deputy director, Zaheeruddin Babar, told Dawn.com.

"In the last two months, 17 people have died and three injured in 110 incidents of rains and floods in the region," he said. "Yesterday, six people died after they were swept away by floods in Ghizer."

Rescue operations underway in GB as floods wreak havoc. — Photo by Imtiaz Ali Taj
Rescue operations underway in GB as floods wreak havoc. — Photo by Imtiaz Ali Taj

Babar revealed that among the people who died in the rains, 12 belonged to Ghazor, 3 hailed from Diamer and two from Hunza.

So far, he went on, 540 houses have been completely destroyed and 88 houses were partially damaged due to the floods during July and August. "53 bridges, 22 hydropower plants, 49 roads in different districts, 500 irrigation channels and 78 water tanks have been washed away," the deputy director said.

Meanwhile, GB Minister for Information Fateh Ullah said that the region had suffered financial losses amounting to Rs10 billion.

"The district administration has established relief centres in Diamar, Skardu and Gilgit so that donations can be collected from the public and delivered to the deserving," he added.

Situation in Balochistan

Meanwhile, Balochistan's misery, which has probably suffered the most in the aftermath of devastating monsoon rains this year, continues.

Highways linking Balochistan with other provinces remained non-operational on Friday as relentless rains and floods did not allow authorities to repair the damaged arteries.

Meanwhile, another bridge on the Quetta-Sukkur also suffered damage due to flooding in the Bolan River.

Quetta and its outskirts remained submerged as a 36-hour-long rain spell inundated most parts of the provincial capital, bringing life to a standstill and leaving hundreds of families without homes.

In Nawan Killi, Chashma Achozai, Pashtoonabad, Hazara town, Faisal town, various localities in Sariab, Sabzal road and western and eastern bypass areas, the flood water forced the people to leave their homes.

The situation in the Nasirabad division further deteriorated as overflowing Bolan, Lehri and Nari rivers hit the protection dams in Nasirabad, Jaffarabad, Jhal Magsi and Sohbatpur districts. At least 100 villages were submerged after the Sabri dam was breached.

And to add to the province's miseries, the capital now also faces an acute liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage, as authorities could not repair two gas pipelines washed away by floods in the Bolan River on Friday,

The 12-inch diameter pipeline, which supplies gas to Quetta and other towns of Balochistan, was swept away near Bibi Nani areas of the Bolan district a week after a 24-inch main pipeline was washed away in a flash flood last week.

Subsequently, long queues of people were witnessed at LPG dealers’ shops carrying gas cylinders.

“We are here in a long queue for two hours but gas is not available,” Tariq Ali, a resident, told Dawn.

The shop owners said that they were also “paying extra money to the LPG dealers” owing to the lack of LPG in the market. The dealers were importing gas from Iran and Karachi and due to the closure of highways the LPG supply had been suspended.

Telephone and internet services were disrupted in several parts of Balochistan due to damage caused by torrential rains. The services were partially restored in 10 districts of the province by Friday night.

Highest level of flash floods, rains in history: Marriyum

Meanwhile, addressing a press conference in Lahore, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said that Pakistan had never faced such a high level of flash floods and intensity of rains in its history.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb calls for donations in a press conference in Lahore. — APP
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb calls for donations in a press conference in Lahore. — APP

She said the country has witnessed 190 per cent more heavy rains, while Balochistan and Sindh provinces received 400pc and 480pc more torrential rains, respectively.

Aurangzeb added that Pakistanis must show the same spirit and resolve, they had shown during the 2005 earthquake and flash floods of 2010, and donate the maximum possible for flood affectees.

COAS visits Balochistan; army accelerates relief work

Separately, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Qamar Javed Bajwa also visited Balochistan's flood-affected areas. He went to flood relief and medical camps set up at Goth Sadoori, Lakhra and Lasbela and inquired about the well-being of locals affected by floods.

He also met troops busy in relief operations and lauded their efforts in service of citizens in distress, the ISPR said.

"The safety and well-being of our countrymen come first and we won’t rest until each one of [the] flood affected is not only reached but rehabilitated, no matter how much effort is required. The people of Pakistan are our priority and we won’t spare any effort to assist them in this difficult time," the ISPR press release quoted him as saying.

Gen Bajwa also directed that all available resources be utilised to assist the civil administration for rescue, relief and rehabilitation of people and infrastructure in the flood-affected areas.

"We must reach out to our brothers and sisters in need without waiting for orders and help them overcome this natural calamity," the COAS ordered.

The military's media affairs wing had said on Friday that the COAS would be visiting the flood-affected areas of Sindh and Balochistan on Saturday to review the situation there.

According to Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman, Sindh and Balochistan have shown the largest deviations from the average expected rainfall in August.

"Our cities are not designed for such torrential downpours without a break," she tweeted, sharing data from the Pakistan Meteorological Department.

On Saturday, the ISPR said in a statement that the Pakistan Army had accelerated relief efforts in flood-hit areas across the country during the last 24 hours.

The statement said that 5,487 ration packs and more than 1,200 tents had been distributed among the flood affectees, while over 25,000 patients had been treated so far.

"In addition 117 relief camps have also been established all over the country. To help the flood victims, 7,522 troops of the army are currently employed along with 50 boats whereas 25 field medical camps have also been established," the ISPR said.

It added that country-wide army collection points were being established to synergize the efforts to collect and distribute relief items.

Briefing about the flood situation across provinces, the military's media affairs wing said that light to moderate and heavy showers were recorded across the country, with Malam Jabba (58mm) receiving the maximum rainfall.

Relief efforts by the Pakistan Army for flood affectees have been accelerated. — Photo by ISPR
Relief efforts by the Pakistan Army for flood affectees have been accelerated. — Photo by ISPR

Currently, the ISPR said, the Jhelum, Ravi, Chenab and Sutlej Rivers were flowing normally.

"The Indus River is at very high flood level in Attock, Taunsa and Sukkur. Medium flood levels have been recorded at Chashma, Guddu and Kotri.

"Low flood levels have been recorded at Tarbela and Kalabagh," the ISPR said, adding that the Kabul River was very high at Nowshera and Warsak.

River Swat was also at a high flood level at Munda, it said.

The statement also highlighted the areas that were massively affected during the floods, which included the Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Khuzdar, Sibbi, Naseerabad, Jafferabad, Jhalmagsi, Lasbela, Sohbatpur and Musakhel districts in South Punjab and Balochistan.

Pakistan Army troops rescue people stuck in flood-affected areas across the country. — Photo by ISPR
Pakistan Army troops rescue people stuck in flood-affected areas across the country. — Photo by ISPR

In Sindh, Tando Allahyar, Khairpur, Badin, Dadu, Sukkur, Qambarshahdad Kot, Ghotki and Larkana were affected. Meanwhile, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Swat, Nowshera and Charsadda were flooded in KP, while Gilgit Baltistan's Gilgit city, Hunza and Ghizar had been affected, the ISPR said.

On Friday, flight and train operations remain suspended in several areas of the country owing to bad weather conditions.

The government has sought international assistance to cope with the devastation and while many global bodies and countries have pledged funds for relief work, the international community’s response to the government’s appeal has been slow so far.

Additional reporting by Naveed Siddiqui.

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