|Thatta being evacuated as breaches at bunds continue to widen|
| HYDERABAD: Authorities ordered nearly half-a-million people to evacuate nearby towns on Thursday as rising floods threatened further havoc in Sindh. In a late night development, authorities ordered all residents of Thatta city to evacuate to safer places as water levels rose. |
Villagers fled trailing north in vans laden with furniture or crowded into buses, or in carts pulled by oxen. Some people were on foot, leading their livestock.
Water lined the road from Hyderabad to Thatta town, as workers frantically used bulldozers to dig embankments only just higher than the flooding, and where people camped out under open skies or in makeshift tents.
A senior administration official warned that fresh floods threatened three towns. A breach into the MS Thatta embankment has inundated many villages and the floodwater is now moving towards Mirpur Bhattero, Sujawal and Daro.
Reports said that a 20-foot wide breach developed at the MS Thatta embankment, which widened to 120 feet within hours due to the inefficiency of irrigation officials.
“We have warned people of Sujawal, Mirpur Bhattero and DaroÖan approximate population of 400,000Ö. to leave for safer places in view of possible flooding there,” Hadi Bakhsh Kalhoro, the senior official in Thatta district, said.
DCO Thatta district Manzoor Sheikh said that some 100,000 people were on the move for safety on Thursday.Reports said that if the developed breach could not be plugged, then there were possibilities that Thatta and Jhirk city would be completely inundated.
Also, Shahdadkot city was once again declared as Red Zone and a warning issued to citizens to vacate the city within 12 hours. The breaches in the Kirthar Canal caused flooding in Shahdadkot and its adjacent areas and floodwater was now moving towards Ratodero.
Meanwhile, the Sindh irrigation minister said waters were also mounting pressure on a protective embankment in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh village, where Benazir Bhutto and her father, as well as her two younger brothers, are buried.
“We have strengthened the embankment because we don’t want mausoleums of our martyrs to be flooded,” the provincial minister, Saifullah Dharejo, said. On the Arabian Sea, authorities fear that coastal districts may flood in coming days, trapped by Indus river floods pushing south and rough seas. “Most people have left Sujawal. I’m also leaving town with a heavy heart with my family,” Mohammed Bakhshal, a 40-year-old farmer, said.
“Local transporters are demanding a lot of money to carry our luggage and families to Thatta and Karachi. I had 15,000 rupees in savings, which I’m now spending on transport.” Authorities warn that the next 48 hours are extremely crucial for Thatta, Shahdadkot and Larkana.
Raging waters swept away a key embankment in Larkana on Monday prompting immediate intervention from President Zardari who directed the National Highway Authority (NHA) to repair it as quickly as possible. He warned that action would be taken against ëincompetentí officials of the provincial irrigation department.
Floodwater flowing from areas upstream have accumulated high pressure near Larkana district and the key Aakil Aagani loop embankment, only six kilometers away from the city, gave in to the pressure, developing a breach.
Sources said that if the breach was not plugged immediately, major cities including Larkana, Shahdadkot, Ratodero, Moen-jo Daro and Garhi Khuda Bukhsh would be inundated.
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah held a meeting with GOC Pano Aqil, irrigation minister Sindh, provincial minister Mir Nadir Khan Magsi and other irrigation officials to review the flood situation.
In the meeting, it was decided to hand over the task of plugging the Toori embankment breach to the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO). FWO Brigadier Amannat accepted the task and conducted a survey of the breach here on Thursday.
Qaim also visited Ratedero. While talking to reporters, he said that there was no artificial breach in any of the embankments here, adding that Ratedero city was out of danger. The entire Katcha area of the Indus river has been submerged and water has started hitting the embankments.
There were three breaches in the Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) and water is flowing to the upper KB Feeder. Hectic efforts are under way by the administration and all concerned departments to save the embankments and avert any major eventuality here.
In the midst of sustained flood level, Hyderabad received a scattered downpour on Thursday, which many fear could lead to weakening of the embankments already bearing the might of the lashing Indus river.
An irrigation official told media that so far the Kotri Barrage and its downstream embankments had been putting up with the pressure of the swelling Indus waters while the peak level had been anticipated to continue till the end of the month.
The water flow remained the same during the last 48 hours and recorded at 936,438 cusecs in the upstream and 916,033 cusecs in the downstream at 6 pm on Thursday, however, some experts were skeptical about the figures made public by the irrigation officials.
The official maintained that there was no chance of floodwaters entering settled areas of Hyderabad district because the embankments had been restrengthened enough to the point as to stand the sheer force of the flood.
DCO Hyderabad Aftab Ahmed Khatri said that his administration was minutely monitoring the flood situation and that he himself visited the protective embankments throughout the day. Chief Engineer Kotri Barrage Manzoor Sheikh said that despite the fact that the barrage's capacity was just 875,000 cusecs, there was no imminent threat to the structure.
Kotri can sustain 10 per cent or 100,000 cusecs more water without being damaged in any way,î he claimed. Sheikh said that Kotri will not face any second or third wave of floods. He added that the current pressure of exceptionally high floods could last for more than six days.
Fortunately, the flow of water at Sukkur and Guddu Barrages also showed a decline. At 9 pm on Thursday, the water flow at Sukkur Barrage was 795,602 cusecs upstream and 750,602 cusecs downstream, while at Guddu, it stood at 727,971 cusecs upstream and 720,118 downstream.
In Thatta district, floodwaters over-ran the village of Raju Nizamani Goth. After swamping the Katcha areas, floodwater is submerging adjoining villages and towns. At least 6,000 people have been rescued and shifted to higher grounds.
Floodwater is also heading towards the National Highway and Keenjhar Lake. The Pakistan Army has been assigned to monitor all embankments, two of which ñ Surjani and Moonarki ñ have been declared sensitive.