Around 100,000 evacuated due to floods in Punjab


KASUR: Families waded through water and cattle were loaded onto boats in a mass evacuation of around 100,000 people in Punjab province, officials said Wednesday.

Several hundred villages and thousands of acres of cropland in the central province were inundated when the Sutlej River burst its banks on Sunday. “The flood waters came a couple of days ago and all our houses were submerged. We walked all the way here on foot with great difficulty,” 29-year-old Kashif Mehmood, who fled with his wife and three children to a relief camp, said on Tuesday.

Rescue boats travelled from village to village over the past several days, collecting people forced to wait on the roofs of their homes as the water level rose around them.

Others pushed their motorcycles through shallower waters or held belongings above their heads until they found dry ground. “There is five or six feet of water accumulated over the roads,” Muhammad Amin, a local doctor volunteering at a relief camp, told AFP. “The only route that could have been used to come and go is now under water. This 15- or 16-kilometre route is now being covered by boat so that we can rescue people.”

Muhammad Aslam, Pakistan’s chief meteorologist covering floods, said the river level was at its highest in 35 years. “We have rescued 100,000 people and transferred them to safer places,” Farooq Ahmad, spokesman for the Punjab emergency services, told AFP on Wednesday.

The Caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab, Mohsin Naqvi, said that monsoon rains had prompted authorities in India to release excess reservoir water into the Sutlej River, causing flooding downstream on the Pakistani side of the border. India has seen severe monsoon rains this year, with more than 150 killed in rain-related incidents since July.

Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, a climate and water expert based in Islamabad, said the water levels in the Sutlej River had become so high that they were beyond India’s storage capacity.

“There was no intention or maliciousness on the part of India. The water had to eventually flow downstream to Pakistan,” he told AFP. “Because in Pakistan we were monitoring the Indian monsoon quite closely, we were expecting and anticipating it, and therefore Punjab and Pakistani authorities had enough warning time to evacuate communities and to plan emergency response,” he said, adding that both countries were facing a climate disaster. Indian authorities did not respond to requests for comment.

The summer monsoon brings South Asia 70-80 percent of its annual rainfall between June and September every year. It is vital for the livelihoods of millions of farmers and for food security in a region of around two billion people — but it also brings landslides and floods that lead to frequent evacuations.

More than 175 people have died in Pakistan in rain-related incidents since the monsoon season began in late June, mainly due to electrocution and buildings collapsing, emergency services have reported.

Pakistan was devastated by weeks of unprecedented floods last year that inundated nearly one-third of the country, but the central province of Punjab was largely spared the worst of the impact. Large parts of Sindh and Balochistan are still recovering from the damage.

Pakistan, which has the world´s fifth-largest population, is responsible for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to officials, but is highly vulnerable to extreme weather exacerbated by global warming.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhawa has said the current flow of water at the Talwar Post in Sutlej River is 118,000 cusecs.

On the instructions of the commissioner, DC Kasur Arshad Bhatti on Wednesday visited the flood relief camps of Kothi Fateh Muhammad, Attar Singh Wala, Baqirkay, Tatara Kamil and Talwar Post. The commissioner said a total of 40,913 people had been shifted to safe places from the flooded areas, adding that 26,600 cattle had also been moved to safe places. As many as 26,000 people were provided food in the third phase of relief activities for flood victims on Tuesday while 912 people were given medical aid at the Kothi Fateh Muhammad Flood Medical Camp on Wednesday and a total of 8,490 animals were provided treatment in at a livestock camp. All MCL, LDA, and Wasa resources have been put at the discretion of the Kasur administration.

He said 7,531 people had been given medical aid and medicines from 11 medical camps, while 1,100 people had been treated in mobile hospitals. A full base camp of the entire administrative machinery is established at the Talwar Post. The relief operation is being directly monitored. All departments are busy day and night with helping and rehabilitating flood victims. He said eight police posts had been established to protect 15 villages evacuated under Section 144. All facilities are available in the camps for flood victims and the DC Kasur himself is monitoring the situation. He said 13 flood relief camps, 11 medical camps and four livestock camps were working in the flood-affected areas for the convenience of the public.


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