The super flood tormenting central and north-eastern Punjab was rushing towards Trimu on Tuesday night after causing widespread devastation, inundating over 1,400 villages, endangering the headworks and posing severe threats to its five adjoining districts. The design capacity of the headworks is 645,000 cusecs and a peak of 600,000 cusecs was expected to cross it by Wednesday.
The real threat is expected after 48 hours when the water level was feared to rise between 700,000 and 800,000 cusecs. Authorities said breaching of the right bank of the river, Athara Hazari, could not be ruled out to protect the headworks because the peak would be much more than it could withstand. They said that districts of Multan, Muzaffargarh, Khanewal, Jhang and Toba Tek Singh could be directly hit by the flood. Therefore, a warning had been issued to the administration to adopt precautionary measures to minimise threats to life and property. Punjab has already declared emergency in 21 districts that are directly hit by the floods in the river Jhelum and especially in the Chenab.
Addressing a news conference, Minister Shuja Khanzada and Punjab government spokesman Zaeem Qadri said the government had started using police for forced evacuation of people. Such evacuations were being made from areas already hit by the floods or were extremely vulnerable. They said that many people were reluctant to leave their homes or property, including livestock, despite warnings. Mr Khanzada said there were chances that the right embankment of Chenab at Trimu would be breached.
There was no decision yet but it would be taken after assessing the situation on the ground. According to the Flood Forecasting Division (FFD), there was now no flood in river Chenab from Marala to Qadirabad. Punjab government officials said floodwater that had entered villages and cities at these points was now receding. But reports from districts said that several towns and villages from Sialkot to Sargodha were still under deep water that had affected nearly 200,000 acres of land.
According to Mr Khanzada, 156 people lost their lives during rains and floods in Chenab (in Punjab). Another 287 were injured. As many as 400,000 heads of cattle were affected and 215 were killed. He said the exact losses to human life and property would be assessed only after a few days. Mr Zaeem Qadri feared outbreak of gastroenteritis, fever and skin diseases in the flood-hit areas, saying the affected persons were being provided with proper medical care. Meanwhile, people continued to suffer hardship in the flood-hit areas despite relief measures taken by the provincial government and Pakistan Army. -dawn