Army called in as Pakistan’s KP faces flood threat

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Intl desk, Aug 27: As floods continue to devastate the length and breadth of the country resulting in the death of at least 42 more people in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and prompting emergency in several districts, the government decided to deploy the army in all provinces to help the civilian authorities in rescue operations in the calamity-hit areas.

At present, more than half of Pakistan is under water and millions of people have been rendered homeless as a result of flash flooding generated by abnormal monsoon rains which have entered their eighth spell with no signs of subsiding.

A notification issued to this effect said that the exact number of troops and area of deployment will be worked out by the respective provincial governments in consultation with the military operations directorate and General Headquarters, DAWN reported.

“…The date of de-requisitioning of said deployment will be decided subsequently after mutual consultation among all stakeholders,” the notification read.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said the Punjab government had requisitioned the army’s deployment in Dera Ghazi Khan, while KP wanted the army’s assistance in Dera Ismail Khan. Balochistan sought the deployment of the personnel in Nasirabad, Jhal Magsi, Sohbatpur, Jafarabad and Lasbela districts while Sindh also sought the military’s help in the flood-hit districts.

Meanwhile, parts of KP witnessed devastation as the Kabul River and Swat River experienced “very high floods”, triggering evacuations by the authorities from low-lying parts of the region and imposition of emergency in Swat and other districts.

The floods which left 42 people dead in different parts of the province earlier on Friday hit Charsadda and Nowshera districts in the evening. At least 21 people were killed in Mansehra and Kohistan, 12 in Swat, five in Shangla, three in Lower Dir and one in Lakki Marwat by the time this report made it to print.

According to the provincial irrigation department officials, part of Munda headworks, which regulates flow of Swat River, collapsed. The official said last recorded river flow at the headworks was 260,000 cusecs. The Swat River at Munda Headworks in Charsadda was in very high flood with 260,000 cusecs of water flow while the Kabul River in Nowshera was experiencing “very high floods” with 176,500 cusecs at around 7pm. A Charsadda district administration also confirmed to Dawn that a 100- to 300-foot portion of the headworks collapsed, due to which water levels in Jindi and Khiyali canals had increased.

On the other hand, authorities were working to evacuate people from the surrounding areas of both canals to safe places.

Nowshera Deputy Commissioner Mir Reza Ozgen asked the residents at risk to immediately vacate their houses and move to safer places, fearing over 400,000 cusecs of water flow on Friday night which would submerge the GT Road under three to four feet of water. Similarly, in Charsadda, the Swat River at Munda Headworks recorded a very high flood as the flow reached 260,000 cusecs; it was only 175,000 cusecs in the 2010 floods. A district administration official said that nearly 200,000 people have been evacuated to safer places in Charsadda.

Swat

Owing to the intensity of the floods, the KP government declared a rain emergency in the Swat district with immediate effect till August 30 after the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) warned of “high to very high floods” in the Swat River.

The flash floods washed away dozens of hotels, bridges, mosques and link roads in the Upper Swat district while hundreds of houses, shops and restaurants were submerged.

According to local sources, hundreds of animals, about 20 trout fish hatcheries, at least 15 bridges, about 15 hotels, five mosques and hundreds of houses were washed away by the flash floods whereas the main road between Madyan and Kalam was partially damaged, disconnecting Kalam valley with the rest of the district. The flash floods also destroyed thousands of acres of agricultural land in the valley. “About 50 hotels, five bridges, and five markets have also been washed away by the floods in Kalam,” said Aziz Kalami, a local journalist.

Quetta submerged

The highways linking Balochistan with other provinces remained non-operational on Friday as relentless rains and floods did not allow authorities to repair the damaged artery. One more bridge on the Quetta-Sukkur also suffered damage due to flooding in the Bolan River.

Meanwhile, Quetta and its outskirts remained submerged as a 36-hour-long rain spell inundated most parts of the provincial capital, bringing life to a standstill and leaving hundreds of families without homes.

In Nawan Killi, Chashma Achozai, Pashtoonabad, Hazara town, Faisal town, various localities in Sariab, Sabzal road, western and eastern bypass areas, the flood water forced the people to leave their homes.

“Several hundred people have been shifted to the Pakistan Sports Board hostels in the Ayub Stadium,” official sources told Dawn while sharing details about the magnitude of destruction.

The situation in the Nasirabad division further deteriorated as overflowing Bolan, Lehri and Nari rivers hit the protection dams in Nasirabad, Jaffarabad, Jhal Magsi and Sohbatpur districts. At least 100 villages were submerged after the Sabri dam was breached.

“We have rescued and shifted many families’ safe places and provided them relief goods, food, and drinking water in their tents,” Nasirabad Commissioner Fateh Muhammad Khajjak said who visited the affected areas.

The Lehri River flooding damaged most parts of all four districts and breached Pat Feeder and Rabi canals, putting Dera Murad Jamali and Dera Allahyar town at risk of floods. “Flood water entered some localities of Dera Allahyar town,” it was learnt.

The acting Balochistan governor in a meeting with the chief minister stressed the need for Islamabad and donors to come forward and help the province.

Acute gas shortage

The gas authorities could not repair the two gas pipelines washed away as a result of floods in the Bolan River, resulting in an acute LPG shortage across the provincial capital. Due to the high demand for LPG, the prices have shot up in the city by up to 35 per cent.

The 12-inch diameter pipeline, which supplies gas to Quetta and other towns of Balochistan, was swept away near Bibi Nani areas of the Bolan district a week after a 24-inch main pipeline was washed away in a flash flood last week.

The spokesman for Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) had asked the people to make alternative arrangements as the pipelines could only be repaired after a respite in floods.

Long queues of people were witnessed at the LPG dealers’ shops carrying gas cylinders. “We are here in a long queue for two hours but gas is not available,” Tariq Ali told Dawn while standing at the LPG shop with a cylinder.

The shop owners said that they were also “paying extra money to the LPG dealers” owing to the lack of LPG in the market. The dealers were importing gas from Iran and Karachi and due to the closure of highways the LPG supply had been suspended.

Flight, train operations suspended

Meanwhile, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight operations were suspended due to bad weather conditions in Quetta due to weather and communication system failure, a PIA spokesman said.

The spokesman said that PIA flights PK 310 Karachi to Quetta, PK 322 Lahore to Quetta and PK 325 Islamabad to Quetta have been affected due to prevailing weather conditions. Earlier the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had temporarily closed the Nawabshah airport due to the deluge.

Also, passenger train services between Hyderabad and Khanpur have been suspended for five days due to floodwater near Nawabshah; however, freight and cargo transportation will remain operational, Railway Minister Saad Rafique said during a press conference. He said around 18 inches of floodwater had submerged a 10km stretch of the railway track near Nawabshah on the Karachi-Peshawar track, also referred to as mainline one (ML-1).

He said that Pakistan Railways, divisional headquarters and regional headquarters had decided to close passenger services on this track; however, trains from Peshawar to Multan will continue to operate.

Trains whose operations will be affected include Allama Iqbal Express, Awam Express, Farid Express, Khyber Mail, Pakistan Express, Shalimar Express, Bahauddin Zakariya Express, Hazara Express, and Tezgam, he said, adding that fares would be reimbursed.

Mr Rafique said several flood-hit parts of ML-2 and ML-3 tracks had already been closed. A major bridge on the ML-3 line was swept away by floodwater and talks had been underway with the National Logistics Cell (NLC) for an alternative arrangement to restore operations, he said.

The minister said the railway track from Karachi, Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas would remain operational and every railway bridge would be reviewed within the next 72 hours. He said shuttle trains would be run in those areas not affected by floods.

He told reporters that Pakistan Railways had suffered a loss of Rs10bn billion due to damage to its tracks and infrastructure after the flood and further losses were being assessed.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly speaker said the MNAs will donate their one-month salary whereas the NA secretariat staff would donate one-week pay to the flood funds. Separately, Marriyum Aurangzeb stated that civil servants from grades 17 to 22 have decided to donate their one-week salary to the flood relief fund.

Ali Jan Mangi in Nasirabad, Manzoor Ali in Peshawar, Fazal Khaliq in Swat, Nisar Muhammad Khan in Mansehra, Faiz Muhammad in Charsadda, Syed Irfan Raza, Amin Ahmed and Mohammad Asghar in Islamabad contributed to this report.