• Death toll jumps to 39
• Homes, infrastructure damaged in Pasni, Kech, Panjgur, Gwadar
• Bilawal insists all signs point to ‘climate change’

QUETTA / GWADAR: Contin­uous heavy rains accompanied by thunderstorms continued to lash several parts of the country, leading to 12 more deaths on Sunday, including six in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, four in Punjab and two in Balochistan.

This suggests that the recent spate of rains and lightning strikes have killed at least 39 people in the three provinces over the past few days.

In Balochistan, rains continued to lash parts of Makran and various other regions, raising the death toll to 10 in the province after two more people, including a woman, were killed in a lightning strike and a roof collapse incident in Kech district on Sunday.

Officials reported severe damages in coastal towns such as Pasni, Kech, Panjgur districts, and the port city of Gwadar. These damages include heavy losses to houses, infrastructure, and disruptions to transportation networks, including the coastal highway and other link roads, cutting off access to many areas from the provincial capital, Quetta, and other districts.

The power supply has been severely affected, with electric pylons uprooted in Pasni and Panjgur areas, leading to outages lasting hours in Quetta and surrounding areas. Gas supply disruptions and low pressure have also been reported across various areas of the provincial capital and other cities.

Normal life and traffic have been significantly impacted across Makran and other regions of northern, central and southern Balochistan, with incessant rains affecting around 25 districts of the province.

Reports indicated that Pasni, a coastal town in the Gwadar district, has been particularly hard hit, with extensive areas submerged under rainwater.

“Pasni looks like a big lake at the moment as flash floods entered the human settlements and main commercial areas,” Noor Ahmed Kalmati, chairman of Pasni Municipal Committee, told Dawn by phone.

“Dozens of mud houses and boundary walls collapsed in heavy rains that lashed the small town for four hours,” Mr Kalmati said, adding that the municipal committee was trying to rescue residents trapped by floodwaters.

In Kech district, scores of houses have been damaged, and link roads washed away, cutting links to Turbat and other areas of Makran.

Kech Deputy Commissioner Hassan Baloch confirmed the death of a woman due to a lightning strike in the Gohrag Bag area of Bal Nagor and structural collapses, with significant damage to infrastructure, including an under-construction bridge at Buzi Top on the coastal highway. He said another man was killed in the Kech district after the roof of a house collapsed.

Besides, several mud houses were damaged while hundreds of vehicles, including loaded trucks, passenger coaches and other vehicles, were trapped on both sides of Buzi Top.

Panjgur has also suffered extensive damage, with hundreds of solar panels destroyed, disrupting essential services such as communication. The rain has severely impacted life in Quetta, flooding roads, damaging infrastructure and causing difficulties for residents.

Efforts to mitigate the impact, including the city cleaning campaign launched by Quetta Metropolitan Corporation Administrator Hamza Shafqaat, have been hampered by the relentless downpour and subsequent flooding.

Punjab

In Punjab, the lightning-related death toll rose to 21 after four more deaths on Sunday, a spokesperson of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said. The victims include nine men, five women and seven children.

Lightning strikes have occurred in Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur, Lodhran, Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar.

Overall, nine people died due to lightning strikes in Rahim Yar Khan; three each in Baha­walnagar, Bahawalpur and Lodhran; and one each in Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur and Kot Addu.

Moreover, five people were also injured due to lightning, the PDMA spokesperson said.

PDMA Director General Irfan Ali Kathia has issued instructions to provide the best medical care to the injured. He said financial assistance would be provided to the families of the deceased.

Bilawal blames climate change

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari offered condolences for the loss of lives resulting from multiple accidents amid heavy rains across various regions of the country, notably Punjab, KP and Balochistan, APP reported.

He urged the provincial governments to deploy all available resources to help the rain-affected victims.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari highlighted the surge in lightning incidents nationwide as indicative of climate change, emphasising the imperative role of universities and research institutions in addressing this issue. He underscored the necessity for exceptional spirit and leadership at the government level to shield citizens from climate change impacts.

He stressed that confronting the threats posed by climate change demands substantive action rather than superficial discourse or avoidance.

Saleem Shahid in Quetta, Behram Baloch in Gwadar and Imran Gabol in Lahore contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2024

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