The death toll from recent floods, which are estimated to have affected around 33 million people, crossed 1,500 on Friday amid reports of water levels receding in Sindh, where floodwaters and hill torrents have converged after wreaking havoc elsewhere in the country.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), 22 flood-related deaths were reported over the last 24 hours. Since June 14, 1,508 people have died.
In its daily situation report, the NDMA also said nine individuals were injured in flood-related incidents during the last 24 hours, taking the total to 12,758.
Recent floods, brought by record monsoon rains and glacial melt in northern mountains, have also swept away homes, vehicles, crops and livestock in damage estimated at $30 billion.
The government and the United Nations have blamed climate change for the surging waters in the wake of record-breaking summer temperatures, with Pakistan receiving 391mm of rain, or nearly 190 per cent more than the 30-year average, in July and August. That climbed to 466pc for Sindh, one of the worst-affected areas.
Water levels ‘dropping’ in Sindh
On Friday, there were signs of life returning to normal in parts of the province as water levels continued to recede.
Dadu Deputy Commissioner (DC) Murtaza Ali Shah told Dawn.com that the level of floodwater had dropped by approximately two feet at various spots, including the ring bund, in the district’s Mehar city.
He said there was still eight to night-feet-high water in the city’s adjoining areas, but the level was continuously reducing. And “markets in the city have started opening partially,” he added.
Dadu Assistant Commissioner Mohsin Sheikh told Dawn.com that the residents of Mehar, who had shifted to safer locations in the wake of floods, had started returning after the drop in water levels.
Moreover, DC Shah said water levels had also dropped by the same measure in Khairpur Nathan Shah.
Separately, PPP MPA Pir Mujeebul Haq, who was elected from Dadu’s PS-74 constituency, told Dawn.com that the water level in the Main Nara Valley Drain had dropped by two feet.
In Johi, MNA Rafique Jamali, elected from Dadu’s NA-235 constituency, said the water level was around eight to nine feet high in the city and that the water level was dropping at the city’s ring bund. He said markets had started opening partially in Johi.
PPP MNA Sikandar Ali Rahoupoto, who has been elected from Jamshoro’s NA-233 constituency, estimated that the water was standing up to eight to nine feet in Bhan Syedabad and adjoining areas after the levels dropped by around two feet.
“Bhan Syedebad has partially opened,” he said.
According to the official in charge of the irrigation cell for Manchhar Lake, Sher Mohammad Mallah, the water level in Manchhar Lake — which has been one of the main threats province reeling from floods — was recorded at 121.5-foot reduced level on Friday morning.
The Flood Forecasting Division website showed that the River Indus was witnessing a medium-level flood on Friday afternoon.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless by flooding in the southern Sindh province, with many sleeping by the side of elevated highways to protect themselves from the water.
“We have been buying tents from all the manufacturers available in Pakistan,” Sindh’s chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said in a statement on Thursday.
Still, one-third of the homeless in Sindh don’t even have a tent to protect them from the elements, he said.
Over the last few weeks, authorities have built barriers to keep the flood waters out of key structures such as power stations and homes, while farmers who stayed to try and save their cattle have faced a new threat as fodder has begun to run out.
‘Situation beyond bleak’
Meanwhile, the authorities set up a “tent village” at a 500-kilowatt grid station in Dadu to house families and individuals displaced by floods.
According to the grid station’s superintendent engineer, Zulfiqar Solangi, 100 tents have been put up at the site so far, and 900 more are being set up.
Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir also confirmed the setting up of the tent village, saying that the Pakistan Army and officials from other departments had worked together to raise a protective dyke to protect the grid station from floodwaters.
“The 500-kilowatt grid station supplies electricity to the [entire] country, which is why it was important to protect it,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced in Sindh are in dire need of support in terms of food, shelter, clean drinking water, toilets, and medicines.
Many have been sleeping in the open by the side of elevated highways.
“I have been in flood-affected areas for the past two days. The situation for families is beyond bleak, and the stories I heard paint a desperate picture,” said Abdullah Fadil, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund representative in Pakistan, after visiting the flooded areas.
“All of us on the ground see malnourished children battling diarrhoea and malaria, dengue fever, and many with painful skin conditions,” he said in a statement.
He said a lot of the mothers were anaemic and malnourished themselves, and with very low-weight babies, being exhausted or ill and unable to breastfeed.
Millions of families are now living with little more than rags to protect themselves from the scorching sun as temperatures in some areas pass 40 degrees Celsius, Fadil said.