Sutlej witnesses ‘worst flooding in three decades’

Published August 20, 2023
KASUR: Rescue workers evacuate people from the Chanda Singh village as water from the Sutlej River continued to inundate settlements along its banks, on Saturday.—Courtesy PDMA
KASUR: Rescue workers evacuate people from the Chanda Singh village as water from the Sutlej River continued to inundate settlements along its banks, on Saturday.—Courtesy PDMA

• Embankments, settlements washed away, people stranded without shelter, food
• Officials say over 6,000 villagers, livestock rescued; Section 144 imposed
• Three drown trying to escape floodwaters in Kasur

LAHORE / KASUR: The Sutlej River surged to “extremely high levels” at Ganda Singh Wala Barrage on Saturday, resulting in the evacuation of hundreds of families from 72 villages in Kasur and Chunian, while three people drowned in floodwater in Kasur while trying to find higher ground.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) reported that a high-level flooding situation was underway in the Sutlej River and the situation would depend on water flow at Harike Headworks and Ferozepur Headworks. The water level had risen to 23 feet, with a flow of 269,000 cusecs at the Ganda Singh Wala Barrage. In Sulemanki, there was a moderate level of flooding with a flow of 83,072 cusecs. There is a looming threat of extremely high-level flooding at Head Sulemanki in the next 24 hours.

The water flow had reached 30,142 cusecs at Head Islam. The risk of extreme flooding in Head Islam is expected to commence from August 22. However, the water flow in Sindh, Jhelum, Chenab, and Ravi remained normal.

The administrative authorities of the districts adjacent to the Sutlej River were put on high alert and measures had been implemented to restrict the movement of people in areas near Sutlej. Relevant deputy commissioners have been directed to reinforce the dykes along the Sutlej River.

Three drown in Kasur

In Kasur, two of the three villagers who drowned in the floodwater had been fished out while the rescue efforts were underway to find the third person. According to Rescue officials, Jamshed of village Athat Singh and Aslam and Mola of village Verram Jhugian wanted to shift to a safer place on their own. They were holding hands due to floodwater but the gushing water swallowed them after separating them.

Separately, over 100 buffaloes of a farmer at village Usmanwala near Ganda Singh were swept away while being transported away from flooding. Many people and animals were stranded in the floodwater as the administration failed to move them out of their houses during the last week despite warnings of heavy floods.

Kanganpur and Mandi Usmanwala posts were being neglected and people were suffering due to the absence of rescue teams and other help. Muhammad Nadeem and Mushtaq Ali were striving to seek the help of the administration to rescue their families and livestock stranded in the flood water in Dona Baito village. They talked to local media in Khaleeji Jageer of Mandi Usmanwala. Mr Nadeem said that he had approached the Rescue teams and tehsil administration to help the families move to a safer place but in vain. They also said that the families were going without food on the roof of their houses.

Rehmat Ali, an elderly farmer of village Fattiwala, said the current flood had reminded him of the 1988 flood as the Sutlej was carrying water above and over its capacity, leaving people without shelter. He demanded the administration reach the villages across the river where people needed to be evacuated.

Farmer Muhammad Shahbaz of Kanganpur said he was reluctant to move his family to an open space and preferred to keep it in the house surrounded by water. He claimed no one came to help the villagers move to a safer place, and neither were they given food for women and children.

Flooded villages await rescue

More villages were flooded after India released more water in Sutlej. Human settlements and embankments were washed away as floods gained momentum on Saturday night, leaving over a dozen villages flooded on Saturday.

The villages include Azizabad, Kot Sundar Singh, Kalo Ottar, Nijabat, Basti Chhembian wali, Rangaywala, Chhabar, Burj Shahbaz, Waim Shah, Jerti Wala, Kadowala, Tatara Kamal, Sodiwal, Janka Singh and Mangal Singh.

Deputy Commissioner Arshad Bhatti imposed Section 144 in the flood-hit areas. The notification said that villages including Nagar, Aiman, Mabukay, Chanda Singh, Mahiwala, Kamalpura, Fattiwala, Bhikiwind, Kamalnagar, Sehjra, Lakhmeer, Sheikhpura Nao, Kaluwara, Mastaykay, Bhuda Singh and Kasoki were vulnerable to exceptionally high flood. It further said that humans and livestock could not be permitted to reside there.

‘Unprecedented in 35 years’

Meanwhile, Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi said the flood in the Sutlej was unprecedented in 35 years. He visited the flood-affected areas and relief camps at the Sutlej Talwar Post near the Ganda Singh border.

Following the reports that people in the affected villages were reluctant to leave their houses and properties, the CM ordered to impose Section 144 and urged its implementation in letter and spirit.

Mr Naqvi said also met villagers of the affected areas. He said that saving the lives of the people was the top priority of the government. He said that the affected people would be helped in every possible way.

Over 6,000 rescued

While giving instructions to the administration to rescue people and livestock, the caretaker chief minister said that all resources be utilised to strengthen the embankments to reduce the scale of destruction due to the flood.

Mr Naqvi also tweeted that “278,000 cusecs of water” were surging near the Ganda Singh border in Kasur, and the government was closely monitoring the situation.

While talking to the media in Lahore, CM Naqvi revealed that floodwaters which were 10-12 feet deep had inundated several villages in Kasur. Approximately 6,500 people had been evacuated from the affected villages in the last 24 hours, he said, adding that if necessary, forceful evacuations would be conducted to prevent loss of life. Section 144 had been imposed in the area.

Emergency Services Department Secretary Dr Rizwan Naseer also visited the flood-affected areas of Kasur and briefed CM Naqvi on the situation. He said that 69 rescue boats and 240 rescuers were deployed to collaborate with the district administration in evacuating citizens from the flood-affected areas.

Special posts with rescue boats were set up at different locations in the flood-affected area and rescue operations were actively ongoing. As many as 5,578 people and 600 cattle were successfully evacuated from the flood-affected areas in Kasur.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2023

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