Evacuations continued in parts of Sindh on Thursday as authorities scrambled to plug a breach in Main Nara Valley Drain — also called Right Bank Outfall Drain-I — to prevent gushing water from reaching Dadu city as the death toll from the climate catastrophe rose by 12.
A breach had occurred in the drain at RD-10 on Tuesday. Initially, it was expected that allowing the outflow of water from the drain would mitigate the risk of flooding in Dadu and Jamshoro districts.
The situation, however, unfolded differently on Thursday morning, as reports from the area revealed that the flow of water towards Dadu city — the capital of its namesake district — had increased.
“The water is flowing rapidly towards Dadu city” because of the breach, PPP MPA Pir Mujeebul Haq, who was elected from Dadu’s PS-85 constituency, told Dawn.com.
Dadu Deputy Commissioner (DC) Syed Murtaza Ali Shah said additional machinery was being employed to close the breach. Moreover, he said work was also under way to raise embankments in order to protect the city.
Later, sharing an update around noon, he said that 90 per cent of the breach had been plugged and estimated that the situation would be brought under control within two hours.
In recent days, two breaches were deliberately made in Manchhar Lake’s protective dyke to divert the flow of floodwaters draining into it towards less populated areas and prevent flooding in the densely populated cities of Sehwan and Bhan Syedabad.
A Reuters report on Wednesday mentioned that country’s largest freshwater lake was “dangerously close to bursting its banks, even after having been breached in an operation that displaced 100,000 people”. And the threat has lingered even as the water level in the lake dropped, albeit marginally, amid reports of water from the lake continuing to submerge parts of the province.
Earlier today, PPP MNA Sikandar Ali Rahoupoto, who was elected from Jamshoro’s NA-233 constituency, told Dawn.com that the lake water had flooded over 100 villages in three union councils in the district.
The district’s DC, Fariduddin Mustafa, also told Dawn.com that water from the lake was flowing towards Tatli and Katohar union councils and in view of a looming threat of flooding in various areas, including Bhan Syedabad town, several families had shifted to safer locations.
According to MNA Rahoupoto, hundreds of people have been evacuated from the area thus far.
Earlier, the water from the lake had flooded five union councils of the Sehwan taluka after two breaches were made in its dyke at RD-14 and RD-52.
Another breach planned
On Thursday afternoon, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon told a press conference that the water level in the Indus River near Manchhar was at 120-foot reduced level (RL).
He said that it was expected that the water level in the river would reduce by eight to nine feet in the next eight to ten hours.
“Once the level reduces, a breach will be made near the river for the discharge of water from Manchhar into the river. And once the discharge starts, it will take around 10 to 15 days to clear the water,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Flood Forecasting Division’s website showed that there was a high-level flood in the river at Kotri Barrage.
Sharing these details, Memon said the provincial government’s entire focus at the moment was on Manchhar and River Indus.
Moreover, he said the situation was improving in Kashmore and Jacobabad and while floodwaters had also started receding in Qambar, it would take some time before the situation became better there.
“The situation will now change within hours,” he added.
Memon further said the provincial authorities had discussed ways to improve the evacuation plan at a meeting today.
Sharing details about efforts, he said Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali had issued directives for the procurement of nutrient supplements for children.
“A meeting of the taskforce [on floods] will now be held on a daily basis to discuss the current situation and plans for evacuations, relief work and water discharge,” he said.
12 more die in floods; UN chief to visit Pakistan
According to the National Disaster Management Authority, 12 people have died due to floods across the country over the past 24 hours, taking the death toll since June 14 to 1,355.
As many as 33 million of a population of 220 million have been affected in a disaster blamed on climate change that has left hundreds of thousands homeless and caused losses of at least $10 billion, officials estimate.
Meanwhile, large-scale displacements and countries limited resources have led to fears of an impending health crisis.
For its part, the United Nations (UN) has appealed for $160 million in aid to help tackle what it said was an “unprecedented climate catastrophe” and nations have been extending financial and moral support with promises for more.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, too, is due in Pakistan on a two-day trip from September 9-10 “to express solidarity with the government and people of Pakistan braving a colossal climate-induced natural disaster caused by unprecedented rains and floods across the country”, a statement issued by the Foreign Office (FO) said on Thursday.
During the visit, Guterres will hold meetings with the Pakistani leadership and senior officials to exchange views on the national and global response to the flood catastrophe.
The secretary general will travel to areas most impacted by the climate catastrophe and interact with displaced families and first responders in the field, the FO statement said, adding that he will also oversee the UN’s humanitarian response work in support of the government’s rescue and relief efforts.
“The secretary general’s visit will further raise global awareness about the massive scale of this calamity and the resulting loss of life and widespread devastation. It will contribute towards enhancing commensurate and coordinated international response to the humanitarian and other needs of the 33 million affected Pakistanis,” the FO said.
It added that Guterres had been “consistently stressing the linkage of such disasters with the impacts of climate change and warning the international community about the existential threat to our planet in case climate change is not addressed in a timely and effective manner.
“The secretary general’s visit will also spotlight the importance of sustained international support for Pakistan through the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase, and for building resilience against future climate shocks.”