Authorities have rushed to protect two major cities in southern Punjab from raging floods, using explosives to divert swollen rivers in a crisis that has hit more than a million people and inundated swathes of farmland. As floodwaters move downstream through Punjab, authorities said Multan and Muzaffargarh were under serious threat of flooding in the next 24 hours.
The army on Thursday planted explosives to blow three strategic dykes to divert waters away from these southern Punjab cities. The army is monitoring important installations and headworks in Multan while the city’s Corps Commander is directly overseeing the situation. All schools in the area are also closed for the next two days. Similar drastic measures were taken on Wednesday to protect the city of Jhang, further upstream, where 10,000 people were evacuated overnight. The military, which often plays an important role in disaster relief efforts, said troops had rescued 22,000 people stranded by floods in Punjab and Kashmir. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said 257 people had been killed and more than 1.1 million affected – a figure that includes both those stranded at home and those who fled after the floods hit.
The ISPR said that the army is continuing with its relief work in Athara Hazari, Jhang, Chiniot, Ahmadpur Sial and Pir Kot, adding that the army is using seven helicopters and 100 boats for rescue operation. Further, the army has distributed 35 tonnes of food among the flood victims. Punjab government has released Rs100 million to each district affected by the recent rains and floods in the first phase, for meeting the basic financial needs to cope with the flood-ridden situation. This was stated by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif while talking to flood affectees of the Lalian Tehsil of the Chiniot district on Thursday.
He said that it is the first priority of the government to evacuate the stranded people from the flood water, and so far, people from nearly 90 per cent areas in the province have been evacuated before the flood or from the flood water. Meanwhile the Punjab Cabinet Committee constituted for flood relief in a news conference said the provincial government will provide Rs20,000 to each family displaced by floods before Eidul Azha.
Committee Chairman Shuja Khanzada said 16 helicopters are being used to take trapped people to dry areas. Punjab Food Minister Bilal Yasin said 184 people were killed in floods due to rain-related incidents and the provincial government announced aid of Rs2 billion for relief and uplifting of the stranded people. Another committee member Zaeem Qadri said 140,000 people have been shifted to safer areas out of the estimated 1.8 million affected by the catastrophe. For rehabilitation purposes the government has constituted 500 relief camps, he added. As for Multan, heavy flood amounting to over seven lac cusec was likely to pass through this district on Thursday night as the water level is rising continuously in River Chenab. The floodwater has touched security dikes in Muhammadpur Ghota, Nawabpur, Qasim Bela and Sher Shah areas. Almost 125 villages have already got inundated in Multan district due to rising water level in Chenab.
Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif and the Corps Commander Multan Lt-Gen Abid Parvez carried out separate aerial visits of flood-hit areas of Multan and Muzaffargarh. ISPR said that the troops of Multan Corps played active role in evacuation of citizens trapped in flood-hit areas while Flood Control Operation Cell adopted quick measures for the protection of citizens in view of flooding. While Trimmu head works was saved from the discharge of peak floodwater, more than 350 villages in Jhang district were flooded with water by breaches made at two places in Athari Hazari bund leaving trail of destruction behind. As the water moved further south, water level was increasing at Panjnad where its level has reached 116,000 cusecs. Water was raiding areas in Mittan Kot and had already flooded 150 villages in Multan district. Provincial minister Ch Abdul Waheed Arain confirmed that the discharge of water from Head Trimmu stood at six lac cusec while in the day on Thursday over three lac cusec water flowed in Chenab.
“It’s receding at Head Trimmu and rising in Multan,” he added. He claimed that as much as eight lac cusec water could pass through Head Muhammadwala bridge and breaches at selective spots at Head Muhammadwala and Sher Shah would be made in case of any emergency situation to protect Multan city. Explosives were planted at flood bunds in Head Muhammadwala, Sher Shah and Garay Wahan areas in Multan to save Head Muhammadwala and Sher Shah bridges as well as Multan city from the flooding. District Coordination Officer Zahid Saleem Gondal told journalists that about 150,000 population of Multan could get affected from the flood.
“We’ve compiled their lists and the provincial government will compensate for all damages faced by them,” he said about those already hit by floods. He said that 16 relief camps and five tent villages were set up in different areas for the flood affectees where they were given all facilities. He said that all the citizens from areas under threat of flood had already been evacuated and there was no fear of life loss now.
As the peak flood passed through the river, two lakh ten thousand acres of land has come under water in Jhang. One hundred and thirty two villages have been affected and more than 80,000 acres of cropped land is under water in Chiniot. The water is spread so wide and long that it is difficult to differentiate between the river bed and the fields. Three people have been reported killed in Jhang and nine in Chiniot. Affected people in Jhang have complained that they are without relief and even do not have drinking water. In interviews, people at the Jhang Relief camp said that they have been provided tents but there is nothing else. They blamed that those distributing food were doing so among people of their choice. Reports said the flood water had started hitting Mittan Kot and Multan. One hundred and fifty villages have been submerged under water. Shujaabad has also been affected by floods where so far ten villages are under water and one thousand acres of cotton crop has been destroyed.
Reports say that eight lakh cusecs of water will pass through Shujaabad and more areas are certain to see devastation. In Chichawatni hundreds of acres of cropped land have come under water due to breach in protective bund at East Sial Jhangi. ADC/focal person district flood control cell Ali Annan Qamar said that 25 relief camps were functional to provide shelter, food and other facilities to the affected people in Multan district. District administration was providing food and drinking water to the affected people who were being persuaded to cook their food at the camps. He said that majority of the people have been evacuated from the riverine and low lying areas of Multan district by virtue of active participation of Pakistan Army, Rescue 1122, police and other government departments. He, however, added that some people were still stranded but hoped their evacuation to safer places would be completed soon.
Ali Annan Qamar said that points have also been set up for livestock at each relief camp where cattle rearers can get food ‘Wanda’ for the cattle heads. Livestock staff was also present to vaccinate cattleheads. The ADC said that Multan city faced no immediate threat of flood and added that sections of dykes have been identified by a committee of experts at Shershah protective Bund and Head ]uhammad Wala road which would be breached only in emergency situation. He added that rescue operation was also in progress at tehsils Shujabad and Jalalpur Pirwala. -nation