Gul Hamaad Farooqi/Agencies

CHITRAL/Lahore/Muzaffargarh - The overall response to the devastation unleashed by torrential rains and flash floods in parts of the country has been much slower and smaller than required.

People of Chitral in the north remain cut off from the surrounding areas while hundreds of villages and towns have been flooded in southern Punjab.

As many as 60 villages of Ghotki district of Sindh have lost land connections to other parts, while Awaran and Zhob districts of Balochistan have also been affected. Crops grown on thousands of acres of land along at least 256 kilometers section of the river Indus have been destroyed.

Though rescue operation has been launched by civilian and military authorities, the flood affectees are struggling against the catastrophe mostly by themselves. The authorities have mostly confined their role to declare emergency and asking people to leave the affected and threatened areas.

The rescue and relief operations have been late, slow and highly insufficient despite the fact that monsoon ravages are nothing new in a country which suffers huge loss by floods almost every year, thanks to poor planning and irresponsibility on part of the authorities.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed ‘grief and sorrow’ over loss of ‘precious lives’ and damages to property in Chitral floods. He has ‘directed’ the National Disaster Management Authority to gear up relief activities in the flood affected areas of the country. The prime minister could not undertake visit to Chitral Tuesday due to bad weather conditions, a press release said.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of the prime minister who has been ruling Punjab for so many years, also ‘directed’ the authorities concerned to take immediate relief and rescue measures to help the affected people, according to his media team. Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has also ‘directed’ District Zhob administration to provide maximum relief to rain affected people on emergency basis, a press release said.

Glacial lake outbursts, cloud outbursts and flash floods hit different parts of Chitral district at midnight on July 16, causing extensive damage to houses, mosques, bridges, roads, irrigation and water channels. The communication infrastructure was also severely affected. Met Office director general however said that the situation in Chitral was the result of melting of glacier more than the monsoon rains.

Flashfloods and the subsequent landslides in Chitral have washed away more than 40 bridges and sections of roads, besides destroying more than 100 houses and 150 shops. Three persons have also been killed in different parts of the district.

Floods have also severed all land links of most valleys with main Chitral city, causing severe shortage of food items and medicines. Main road of Garamchishma, Murdan, Shughor, Karimabad, Hassanabad, Breshgram, Sosum, Koragh, Mastuj, Rumbor, Bumborat Broze, Sheshikoh, Koghuzi and others have been damaged due to flash floods, leaving thousands of people stranded in these valleys.

According to reports, there is no electricity and drinking water in Chitral since July 16 and people of the entire valley are compelled to bring drinking water from springs and water wells situated in far-flung areas. The performance of Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco), Communication and Works (C&W) Department, the Public Health and Engineering, the Water and Sanitation Unit and others has been poor so far.

According to ISPR, two army helicopters are engaged in the relief operation in Chitral. Over eight tonnes of food has so far been distributed among the stranded people and at least 50 persons have been rescued. General Officer Commanding Malakand Division Maj-Gen Nadir Khan, ISPR Swat staff along with a local media team and DPO Majeed Marwat also visited the affected areas along with food items and other essentials for the affectees.

In southern Punjab, parts of Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh, Layyah, Kehror Lall Ussain and Kot Mithan have hit by floods, submerging hundreds of villages and forcing residents to flee their areas. Levees have collapsed in district Dera Ghazi Khan while the authorities have opened spill ways of Tarbela Dam. Despite passing of three days, irrigation department has not succeeded in filling the breaches in embankment of Indus river at Basti Ramdani of town Jhakar Imam Shah, 45km from DG Khan city.

Medium level flood has directly hit more than 300 settlements and villages along the Indus River. Evacuation is going on. Most people are shifting to the river embankments and Indus Highway. To add to the tragedy, boats owners are charging at least Rs 1,000 per person to shift families to safer places.

As water level is increasing in the river day by day, district administration has issued flood warning in many areas. At least 450,000 cusecs water is passing through River Sindh at Muzaffargarh point. The authorities have shut down more than 200 canals due to flood in Head Taunsa. These canals include Muzaffargarh Canal, Dera Ghazi Khan Canal and TP Link.

The overall situation across the country may worsen as the Met Office has warned that there would be a risk of flash flooding in the local streams and nullahs of Punjab, upper KP, eastern Balochistan and Kashmir during the next three days due to unstable weather conditions and significant monsoon rains.

According to weather experts, widespread rain and thundershowers are expected in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Kashmir as well as Lahore, Gujranwala and Hazara divisions. Scattered rains are predicted in Malakand, Peshawar and Mardan divisions along with Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan. Isolated rain is also expected in Bannu, DI Khan, Sibbi, Kalat, Naseerabad, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Mirpurkhas Division.

According to reports, discharge of water from Taunsa Headworks was 410,500 cusecs with medium flood. The discharge from Kalabagh has been recorded 383,000 cusecs. The discharge from Chashma has been recorded 479,000 cusecs.

Spillways of Tarbela and Khanpur dams have been opened after surge in water level. According to the Dam Administration, water level in Tarbela dam has reached 1526 feet. Water inflow in Tarbela dam is three hundred, forty-nine thousand and two hundred (349,200) cusecs while the outflow is three hundred, nine thousand and five hundred (309,500) cusecs.