Pakistan declares state of emergency as millions affected by floods – Manila Bulletin
SUKKUR, Pakistan — Heavy rains hit much of Pakistan on Friday after the government declared an emergency to deal with monsoon floods which it said affected more than 30 million people.
The annual monsoon is essential for irrigating crops and replenishing lakes and dams across the Indian subcontinent, but each year it also brings a wave of destruction.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said on Friday that more than 900 people had been killed this year – including 34 in the past 24 hours – as a result of monsoon rains that started in June.
Officials say this year’s floods are comparable to those of 2010 – the worst on record – when more than 2,000 people died and almost a fifth of the country was under water.
“I have never seen such a major flood from the rains in my life,” octogenarian farmer Rahim Bakhsh Brohi told AFP near Sukkur in Sindh province.
Like thousands of others in rural Pakistan, Brohi was seeking shelter along the national highway, as the elevated roads are among the few dry spots in the landscapes of endless water.
A statement released Friday by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s office said 33 million people had been “severely affected” by the floods, while the country’s disaster management agency said nearly 220,000 homes had been damaged. destroyed and half a million others badly damaged.
Two million acres of crops have been wiped out in Sindh alone, the provincial disaster agency said, where many farmers live hand to mouth, season after season.
“My cotton crop which was sown on 50 acres of land has disappeared,” Nasrullah Mehar told AFP.
“It’s a huge loss for me…what can we do?”
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman, who on Wednesday called the floods “a disaster of epic proportions”, said the government had declared an emergency and appealed for international help.
Pakistan is eighth on the Global Climate Risk Index, a list compiled by environmental NGO Germanwatch of countries deemed most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change.
– From drought to floods –
Earlier this year, much of the country was in the grip of drought and a heatwave, with temperatures reaching 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit) in Jacobabad, Sindh province.
The city is now struggling with floods that have inundated homes and washed away roads and bridges.
In Sukkur, about 75 kilometers (50 miles) away, residents struggled to navigate muddy streets clogged with flood-borne debris.
“If you had come earlier, the water would be this high,” Aqeel Ahmed, a 24-year-old student, told AFP, raising his hand to his chest.
Prime Minister Sharif canceled a planned trip to Britain to oversee the flood response and ordered the military to devote all its resources to relief operations.
“I saw from the air and the devastation cannot be expressed in words,” he told state television after visiting Sukkur.
“Cities, villages and crops are flooded with water. I don’t think this level of destruction has happened before.
A national fundraising appeal has been launched, with the Pakistan Army saying that every commissioned officer will pay them a month’s salary.
The most affected regions are Balochistan and Sind in the south and west, but almost all of Pakistan has suffered this year.
On Friday, images circulated on social media showing flooding rivers wiping out buildings and bridges built along their banks in the mountainous north.
Junaid Khan, deputy commissioner of Swat district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told AFP that 14 riverside hotels had been swept away, along with two small hydroelectric power stations.
In Chaman, the western border town neighboring Afghanistan, travelers had to walk through waist-deep water to cross the border after a nearby dam burst, adding to the rain-induced deluge.
Pakistan Railways said the nearby city of Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province, was cut off and train services were suspended after a key bridge was damaged by a flash flood.
Most mobile networks and internet services were down in the province, with the country’s telecommunications authority calling it “unprecedented”.
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