Pakistan orders thousands to evacuate near flood-swollen rivers – Manila Bulletin

MINGORA, Pakistan – Thousands of people living near flood-swollen rivers in northern Pakistan were ordered to evacuate on Saturday as the death toll from devastating monsoon rains neared 1,000 with no end in sight.

People gather in front of a road damaged by floodwaters following heavy monsoon rains in Midian region in northern Swat Valley, Pakistan August 27, 2022. Thousands of people living near Flood-swollen rivers in northern Pakistan were ordered to evacuate on August 27 as the death toll from the devastating monsoon rains approached 1,000 with no end in sight. Abdul MAJEED / AFP

Many rivers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – a scenic province of mountains and steep valleys – overflowed, demolishing dozens of buildings, including a 150-room hotel that collapsed in a raging torrent.

“The house we built with years of hard work started to sink before our eyes,” said Junaid Khan, 23, owner of two fish farms in Chrasadda.

“We sat on the side of the road and watched our dream house sink.”

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.

Officials say this year’s monsoon floods have affected more than 33 million people – one in seven Pakistanis – destroying or severely damaging nearly a million homes.

On Saturday, authorities ordered thousands of residents in threatened areas to evacuate their homes as rivers still had not reached their maximum capacity.

“At first, some people refused to leave, but when the water level rose, they accepted,” Bilal Faizi, spokesman for the Rescue 1122 emergency service, told AFP.

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.

Farmer Shah Faisal, camped by the side of a road in Chrasadda with his wife and two daughters, described how he saw his riverside house engulfed by a river as the powerful current eroded the bank.

The Jindi, Swat and Kabul rivers flow through the city before joining the mighty Indus, which also overflows downstream.

“We escaped with our lives,” Faisal told AFP.

– Climate change –
Officials attribute the devastation to human-induced climate change, saying Pakistan unfairly bears the consequences of irresponsible environmental practices elsewhere in the world.

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.

Still, local authorities must bear some of the blame for the devastation.

Corruption, poor planning and failure to follow local regulations mean thousands of buildings have been erected in areas prone to seasonal flooding, but not as severe as this year.

The government has declared a state of emergency and mobilized the military to deal with what Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman on Wednesday called “a disaster of epic proportions”.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority, since the start of the monsoon in June, more than two million acres of crops have been wiped out, 3,100 kilometers (1,900 miles) of roads have been destroyed and 149 bridges have been destroyed. carried away.

In Sukkur, more than 1,000 kilometers south of Swat, agricultural land irrigated by the Indus River was under water and tens of thousands of people sought refuge on elevated roads and highways awaiting new torrents from the north .

“We have fully opened the gates,” dam supervisor Aziz Soomro told AFP, adding that the main water rush was expected on Sunday.

The flooding couldn’t come at a worse time for Pakistan, whose economy is in freefall and whose politics are in crisis following the ousting of former prime minister Imran Khan by a parliamentary vote. of defiance in April.



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