Lower Punjab On Alert As Raging River Heads South

LAHORE/JHANG/MULTAN: As the peak of exceptionally high flood in the Chenab river was crossing Trimu headworks on Thursday, the Punjab government authorities expressed fears about floods in Multan because of chances of breaches at two bridges leading to the district. The Multan region was the focus of all relief and rescue operations and over 1,100 boats and 16 helicopters were being used to evacuate people from Jhang, Multan and Muzaffargarh.

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So far 184 people have been killed in rain- and flood-related incidents and crops over hundreds of thousands of acres damaged in Punjab. Talking to reporters, Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Floods, Shuja Khanzada, said the authorities were considering making another breach in an embankment at Athara Hazari, opposite Jhang, to handle a peak of 500,000 to 600,000 cusecs approaching Trimu over the next 24 hours. But the irrigation department and the Jhang district administration said the chances were remote. According to Mr Khanzada, the breach caused by Chenab at Vijhana, near Jhang, was being plugged to save areas around the city, About 40,000 cusecs gushed towards Jhang through this point on Wednesday and the authorities claimed that the flow had been reduced to 2000 cusecs after the plugging of the breach.

Food on Flood people

To save Jhang and adjoining villages and towns, the authorities had on Wednesday blown up the Chenab’s right side embankment at Athara Hazari, diverting 120,000 cusecs to Athara Hazari and adjoining areas. Now Shorkot city is under an increasing threat of flood and the authorities are making efforts to strengthen the city’s defence by beefing up the dyke and plugging vulnerable points. A peak of 625,321 cusecs passed Trimu in the early hours of Thursday and the level was 592,304 cusecs at 4pm. Mr Khanzada said Chenab downstream Trimu could pose a serious threat to Multan, mainly because of chances of breaches at Muhammadwala and Sher Shah (railway) bridges. He said the discharge at Muhammadwala bridge was 350,000 cusecs and that at Sher Shah 250,000 cusecs at noon and the level was rising. “At present the two bridges are safe, but breaches on their right side (Multan) may be made if the flow in the river poses any threat to them,” Mr Khanzada said at around 12.30am.

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In case of breaches, he feared, the floodwater would badly affect Multan district, but the city would be safe. Irrigation department officials told Dawn at 8pm that both the bridges were safe and the floodwater was flowing within their dykes. Sources at the Multan irrigation department told Dawn that a breach near Head Muhammadwala was likely because of faulty design of the bridge. They said the bridge had been built by diverting the river towards west of the city. The river was diverted about 6km off course and

that is the point where water pressure is increasing. The sources said the pressure was building up on the left bank of the river from Head Muhammadwala to Bund Bosan and to reduce the pressure the breach would be made. According to them, the water level on the gauge installed at Head Muhammadwala was at 412 while the breach will be made if water touched 417. Meanwhile, the Flood Forecasting Division forecast high flood in the river Ravi at Sidhnai over the next 24 hours.

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The discharge at this point was 62,528 cusecs at 4pm and was expected to rise to 70,000 cusecs. Ravi falls into Chenab near Ahmadpur Sial. The waters then head to Multan. The authorities said it would add to the peak in Chenab, creating more problems in the region. The FFD forecast high to very high flood (600,000 to 700,000 cusecs) in Indus river at Guddu on Sept 15 and 16. Sukkur is likely to face a similar scenario on Sept 16 and 17. It said peaks could inundate Muzaffargarh, Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur, Jacobabad, Ghotki, Shikarpur and Sukkur districts and asked the authorities concerned to take measures to avoid any loss of life and property. Meanwhile, Punjab Food Minister Bilal Yasin said that 1.8 million people had so far been affected by floods and rains in 21 districts where an emergency had been declared. Over 140,000 people have been rescued and shifted to safe places. The Punjab government’s spokesman Zaeem Qadri said the army, navy and air force were assisting the provincial government in carrying out rescue and relief operations in the flood-hit cities and towns. -dawn