“I have never seen such floods in my life”, confirmed Rahim Bakhsh Brohi, a farmer interviewed by Agence France-Presse, in a country accustomed to violent times. A state of emergency was declared on Friday, August 26 in Pakistan, struck by monsoon rains of unusual strength that affected more than 33 million inhabitants.
More than 900 people have died, including 34 in the last 24 hours, due to the rains that started in June, the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said on Friday. Material damage is catastrophic. Nearly 220,000 houses were completely destroyed, and 500,000 were severely damaged, detailed the NDMA.
The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September, is important for the irrigation of plantations and for replenishing the water resources of the Indian subcontinent. But it also brings its share of drama and destruction every year.
The ghost of the flood in 2010
According to the authorities, this bad season is comparable to 2010, a record year in which 2,000 people died and almost a fifth of the country was submerged in rain.
In Sukkur, in the province of Sind (South), particularly affected, the residents tried to pass through the muddy roads filled with debris brought by the bad weather. Like thousands of rural residents seeking shelter, Brohi tried to find refuge on the high national road, a rare area untouched by the floods. About 80,000 hectares of agricultural land were destroyed in this province alone.
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman, who on Wednesday spoke about a disaster in“an extraordinary size”launched an appeal for international help on Friday.
Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to climate change. It is in the eighth position among the countries most threatened by extreme weather events, according to a study by the NGO Germanwatch.
Earlier this year, much of the country was in a heat wave, with up to 51°C recorded in Jacobabad, Sindh province. Today, this city is affected by floods that have destroyed houses, washed away roads and bridges.
“I flew over the disaster area and I have no words to express what I saw”, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on television after visiting Sukkur. The latter canceled his trip to Great Britain to oversee rescue operations and ordered the army to devote itself to relief operations.
Army officers must also pay a month’s salary for losses caused by the disaster and an appeal for donations has been launched.
The regions of Balochistan (west) and Sind (south) were the most affected, although heavy rains affected almost all of Pakistan. Videos posted on social networks on Friday showed buildings, placed near flooded rivers, as well as bridges, destroyed by waves.
Terrifying footage from S. #Pakistan today of an entire building washed away by the flood. More than 935 people died, many more t… https://t.co/QsfhCfuS0n
In Chaman, near the border with Afghanistan, evacuees wade through waist-deep muddy water caused by the explosion of a nearby dam.
In Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, railway lines were cut after a bridge was damaged. Most telephone networks and internet services were disrupted, according to the telecommunications authority which described the situation as“unpublished”.