Pakistan braces for flood surge

August 5th, 2010 - 1:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 5 (DPA) Authorities in southern Pakistan were Thursday preparing for the arrival of flood waters that have left hundreds dead and large areas devastated on their way through the northwest and centre of the country.
“Up to 1 million cubic feet (28,300 cubic metres) per second of water will pass through Guddu Barrage at Indus River in Sindh Province sometime in the evening,” said Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, the head of Pakistan’s meteorological department.

“However, there is no forecast of rains in the area at that time,” he added.

Officials said they fear that after passing through Guddu barrage, which has a maximum discharge capacity of about 34,000 cubic metres per second, the flood will submerge large swathes of land in low-lying areas in seven districts of the southern province of Sindh.

“So far we have evacuated more than 350,000 people from the areas we believe will be worst affected,” said Saleh Farooqi, a spokesman of Provincial Disaster Management. “Altogether up to 1 million people might be affected by the floods.”

The floods that were triggered by last week’s heavy monsoon rains wreaked havoc in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, killing more than 1,600 in the province alone.

Troops and aid workers are still struggling to access the remote, mountainous areas, especially in the Swat valley, where thousands are inaccessible by road and living in the open air.

Helicopters are the only means to ferry much needed food and medicines to those in need.

Even on the plains, such as around the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa capital Peshawar, people are angry over the sluggish relief efforts by the government. Hundreds of flood victims held protest rallies and blocked roads in Nowshera and Charsadda districts Wednesday.

Further south in the central province of Punjab, the water breached the banks of the Indus River and swamped more than 400,000 hectares of land.

A statement from UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Wednesday said that 1.4 million people were affected by the waters in Punjab, with 25,000 houses destroyed and 48,000 damaged. Dozens drowned and 525,000 hectares of agricultural land were inundated.

The UN and several countries have announced millions of dollars in aid to help the flood victims in Pakistan, whose economy has been devastated by rising Islamist militancy and previous political instability.

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