Water levels in Sindh’s Manchhar Lake and parts of the Dadu district were on the rise on Saturday as the country struggled in the face of devastating floods, which have claimed over 1,300 lives since mid-June, and authorities prepared for more evacuations from areas at risk of flooding.
Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in Pakistan’s northern mountains have brought floods that have killed 1,314 people since June 14, with 24 deaths reported over the past 24 hours, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
According to the official in charge of the irrigation cell for Manchhar Lake, Sher Mohammad Mallah, the water level in the freshwater body had risen to 125 reduced levels (RL) by Monday afternoon, up from 123.2RL recorded yesterday night.
He told Dawn.com that the lake’s protective dykes at RD-80, 75, 20 and 10 were “washed over” by waves and strong winds.
A dyke of Manchhar was breached on Sunday in face of the threat of densely populated areas of Sehwan and Bhan Saeedabad being flooded.
According to officials, the cut made between RD-14 and RD-15 will allow water to eventually reach the Indus River — something not happening for the past two days as the river was flowing in ‘high flood’ between Sukkur and Kotri barrages.
However, the breach, dubbed a “relief cut”, was expected to flood at least five union councils (UCs) of Dadu — Jaffarabad, Channa, Arazi, Bubak and Wahur.
Moreover a Reuters report said the breach would displaced up to 100,000 people.
The Dawn.com correspondent quoted area residents as saying on Monday that the five UCs had been flooded but the reports could not be verified from any official sources.
Meanwhile, Jamshoro Deputy Commissioner (DC) Fariduddin Mustafa said 25 boats had been arranged for evacuations from areas at risk, from where several families and individuals had already been evacuated.
Separately, Dadu DC Murtaza Ali Shah told Dawn.com that water levels were rising at the ring embankments of Johi and Mehar areas, as well as in the Main Nara Valley Drain, also called Right Bank Outfall Drain-I.
“These areas have remained protected from floods so far, but the threat lingers,” he said.
Another cut made to lake
Later in the day, Jamshoro Deputy Commissioner Farid Mustafa confirmed that another cut was made to the lake’s protective dyke at RD-52 in an effort to “save Dadu city”.
Earlier in the day, authorities had planned more cuts in light of the increasing waterflows from Main Nara Valley Drain (MNVD).
An official from the irrigation department requesting anonymity said MNVD was bringing heavy flows.
“Our dilemma is that just like the Indus is not accepting water from the lake, the lake is not accepting water from MNVD,” he said. He went on to say that continuous water discharge was also putting pressure on Dadu city.
The latest data from the irrigation department showed that the Indus was witnessing medium flood at Sukkur and high flood at Kotri barrage. At 6pm, Kotri barrage witnessed another increase in upstream flows.
Kotri upstream discharge was recorded at 603,327 cusecs and 584272 cusecs downstream, recording a rise of 15,560 cusecs in the last 24 hours.
PM announces increase of compensation under BISP
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Sindh’s Qambar-Shahdadkot district on Monday, where he announced a 2.5 times increase in the compensation amount set aside for flood-affected individuals under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
Speaking to the media during a visit to the relief camp during his trip, the PM said the government had decided to increase cumulative the amount of flood relief assistance under the BISP from Rs28 billion to Rs72bn.
“The programme will now cover hundreds of thousands of more families,” with Rs25,000 being given to each, he added.
The PM expressed concern over the damage caused to cotton and other crops by rains and floods, saying, “I don’t think Pakistan in general and Sindh in particular ever witnessed this scale of devastation due to hill torrents and rains.”
The destruction “is unexpected and unimagined”, he said, adding that as of now, Sindh was the most-affected province followed by Balochistan.
PM Shehbaz stressed the need for joint efforts at the national level, by all classes including politicians and intelligentsia, to deal with the calamity. “We can do politics later,” he remarked.
With regards to providing shelter to people displaced by floods, he said the government had ordered seven million tents. Moreover, he added, medical camps had been set up to prevent the spread of diseases.
He also thanked “friendly countries” for extending support to Pakistan during these challenging times.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah briefed the PM on flood-affected areas in the province.
Later, PTI chief Imran Khan visited Sukkur in the province, where his party arranged a lunch for flood-affected individuals.
A tweet on the PTI’s official account said Imran would distribute relief items amongst the affected citizens during the visit to mark the launch of Insaf Relief Programme in the province.
He was accompanied by former Sindh governor Imran Ismail and PTI leader Ali Haider Zaidi on the occasion.
Unicef delivers supplies to help flood-affected children
Further, Unicef on Monday delivered 32 metric tons of life-saving medical and other emergency supplies to support children and women affected by the devastating floods.
The shipment, which arrived in Karachi from Unicef’s supply division in Copenhagen, includes medicines, medical supplies, water purifying tablets and nutritional supplements.
Unicef handed over the supplies to the federal government, represented by Sindh’s Ministry of Health and Population Welfare. The supplies will be immediately dispatched to children and families who need them the most in some of the 72 hardest-hit districts.
“The floods have left children and families out in the open with no access to the basic necessities of life,” said Abdullah Fadil, Unicef Representative in Pakistan.
“This shipment is critical and life-saving, but only a drop in the ocean of what is required,” he said.
“The risk of an outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dengue, and malaria, keeps increasing every day as people are forced to drink contaminated water and practice open defecation. The dangers of mosquitoes, snakebites, skin and respiratory diseases are also increasing. We need urgent support to help children grappling for survival,” he added.
A second shipment of 34 metric tons of humanitarian supplies is expected to arrive on Tuesday, carrying medicines to treat parasitic infections, resuscitation and sterilisation kits, micronutrients for pregnant women, educational supplies, and recreational kits to help children cope with trauma.
Impending health crisis
Being downstream on the Indus River, the southern parts of the country have witnessed swelling river waters flowing from the north. Pakistan’s limited dams and reservoirs are already overflowing and cannot be used to stop downstream flows.
Meanwhile, large-scale displacements and countries limited resources have led to fears of an impending health crisis.
According to the World Health Organisation, nearly 900 health facilities have been damaged due to floods in the country, 180 of them completely destroyed.
And with stagnant water everywhere preventing people from observing even a modicum of hygiene practices, stomach ailments and skin infections have become rampant.
According to the Sindh government, in August alone nearly 200,000 cases of acute watery diarrhoea and dysentery had been reported among children in flood-affected areas.
Given the state of affairs, Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel [said] on Sunday that over 1,200 medical relief camps would be set up in more than 20 flood-hit districts this month to provide medical assistance to affected citizens.