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.
Welfare victims are center of priorities, says PM Shehbaz
Later in the evening, talking to media persons, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for unity during the tough times, saying that politics could be left aside for other times.
“To provide relief to the victims, all efforts are underway on both provincial and federal levels with mutual coordination. We are trying to bridge all the gaps,” he promised, elaborating that the government was ensuring “no shadows of political differences” were seen in the rehabilitation efforts.
The premier said that Sindh had suffered the most during the floods, emphasising that scores of villages and towns in the province had been washed away.
“Even today, as I speak, Sindh shows the view of a sea with water everywhere you see,” he said. “Hundreds of villagers have drowned and thousands injured, including children.”
The premier highlighted that crops spread over millions of acres and over 700,000 cattle had been washed away.
The PM went on that in view of the devastation, the government had decided to increase the compensation being provided to victims to Rs70 billion, which was being distributed via the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
“In this, Sindh has the highest share because of the damages in the province,” the prime minister said, adding that the government would be doing everything with “transparency and merit”.
Furthermore, he thanked friendly countries and other international organisations for sending aid to the country during these tough times. However, PM Shehbaz added that the real challenge was now the rehabilitation of the infrastructure and the 33 million displaced people.
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.”
KP’s Bahrain to Kalam road reopened for traffic
Later in the day, Malakand Commissioner Shaukat Ali Yousafzai told Dawn.com that the road from Bahrain to Kalam in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which was washed away during the floods, has been restored for traffic after 14 days.
Presently, the road has been opened for light traffic, while heavy vehicles are being rerouted. According to the commissioner, travelers have been advised to obey traffic rules to avoid traffic congestion.
Yousafzai hope that the restoration of the road would speed up the relief and relief operations in several areas of the province.
Separately, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office today said that the Sago bridge had been reopened for traffic thus restoring connectivity on the main National Highway N-50 connecting southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with northern Balochistan.
More aid pours in
Later in the day, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a tweet that the UAE Minister of State for Tolerance and Coexistence, Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, has announced $10 million for disaster relief in Pakistan.
Separately, the FO spokesperson said today that Pakistan has so far received 56 flights from friendly countries and international organizations carrying relief goods for flood victims.
According to him, United Arab Emirates sent 26 flights, Turkiye 11, China four, Qatar four and one each by France, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Jordan.
United Nations Children’s Fund has also sent two flights, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees three and World Food Programme dispatched two flights.