Wednesday August 31, 2022

Cataclysmic floods in Pakistan, waters hit swiftly and brutally

Cataclysmic floods in Pakistan, waters hit swiftly and brutally

Flood affected people carry belongings out from their flooded home in Shikarpur, Sindh, Pakistan, on Thursday. AFP

Rlixa/Riaz Khan/Associated Press

Pakistan has received nearly 190% more rain than the 30-year average in the quarter through August this year, totalling 390.7 millimetres (15.38 inches). Sindh province, with a population of 50 million, was hardest hit, getting 466% more rain than the 30-year average.

At least 380 children were among the dead, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif told reporters during a briefing at his office in Islamabad.

At a charity clinic in a southern Pakistani village, dozens of people affected by relentless rains and floods crowd around the door waiting to talk to a volunteer doctor.

Cataclysmic floods in Pakistan, waters hit swiftly and brutally
A child sits on a dry ground near by his family after fleeing from flood hit home in Shikarpur, Sindh. AFP

The village of Bhambro is in a poor district of Sindh province, hard-hit by record floods that have destroyed more than a million homes and damaged critical infrastructure including health facilities across the country.

Bhambro is surrounded by vast stretches of flooded farmland, its streets full of mud and strewn with debris and manure — conditions ripe for outbreaks of malaria, cholera and skin diseases such as scabies.

"Skin diseases are the main problem here because of dirty, stagnant water and unhygienic conditions," said Sajjad Memon, one of the doctors at the clinic, which is run by the charity Alkhidmat Foundation.

He used the flashlight on his mobile phone to examine patients, who were mostly reporting scabs and rashes on Tuesday.

Cataclysmic floods in Pakistan, waters hit swiftly and brutally
Displaced families, who fled from flood-hit areas, collect water from a underground water tank in Karachi. AFP

Many had made their way to the clinic walking barefoot through filthy floodwater and mud.

"My child's foot is burning with pain. My feet too," said Azra Bhambro, a 23-year-old woman who had come to the clinic for help.

Rubina Bibi was cooking food for her family in her mudbrick home in her village in northwest Pakistan when the nearby mosque blared a warning from its loudspeaker. Flood waters were coming, it announced, everyone should move to safer ground.

She and her family didn’t take it seriously. There had been flooding in their village of Majooki more than a decade ago, and they hadn’t needed to flee.

This time, however, it was on a different scale entirely. Days of torrential rains had sent a massive surge of water down the nearby Swat River — so powerful that on that day, last Friday, it broke through a reservoir that usually controls the river’s flow.


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When the water hit Majooki hours after the warning, it poured into the house where the 53-year-old Bibi lived with her two sons, a daughter-in-law and her grandchildren.

One of her grandchildren, 5-month-old Dua Humayun, was sleeping on a cot in the house’s courtyard. In an instant, the baby was swept away by the rushing waters. It was too fast for anyone to even think of saving her. She was gone.

Pakistani officials say the flooding that has hit across the country over the past weeks is like nothing they have seen before. It has been caused by unprecedented heavy and unrelenting monsoon rains, fueled they say by the world’s changing climate.

Millions in villages, towns and cities around Pakistan were caught off guard by the swiftness and power of the waters.

Bibi spoke to The Associated Press at a tent camp set up in a sports complex in the city of Charsadda for hundreds of people left homeless by the deluge. She spoke of her granddaughter’s death with composure, but inside the tent, her daughter-in-law could be heard sobbing.

"The floodwaters entered our house suddenly. We didn’t have time to take anything as we were leaving,” Bibi said. She, her sons and daughter-in-law carried her surviving grandchildren tightly as they waded through waist-deep water out of their home. They then walked in the stifling summer heat for four kilometers (2.5 miles) to Charsadda.

Cataclysmic floods in Pakistan, waters hit swiftly and brutally
People cross a river on a suspended cradle, in the town of Bahrain, Pakistan, Tuesday. AP

More than 1,160 people have been killed in flooding across Pakistan since mid-June, hundreds of them in the major surge that began last week. More than 33 million people in the country of 220 million have been affected, including those left homeless by the destruction of more than 1 million homes. Pakistani officials have put the economic damage at some $10 billion, including everything from collapsed bridges and roads to destroyed crops.

The district around Charsadda has been one of the hardest hit areas. The Swat River meets the Kabul River nearby, and the nearby farmlands are laced with tributaries - all of them still surging with swollen waters despite a pause in rain in recent days. Authorities have warned that more rains are expected in coming weeks.

The city of Charsadda, home to more than 120,000, has been trashed. On Tuesday, some neighborhoods remained flooded with water shin-deep or higher.

Residents whose homes still stood took out their soggy blankets and furniture and other possessions to dry. Others surveyed wrecked mud-brick or shoddy cinder-block homes with collapsed walls and roofs. Deep, thick mud coated everything.

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