ISLAMABAD: Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said Wednesday that the current monsoon rains have claimed 77 lives since June 14, while 39 deaths have been reported from Balochistan alone — the most from any province. In a press conference, the climate change minister termed the deaths a “national tragedy” as hundreds of homes have been destroyed and rescue operations in remote areas were being hampered due to heavy rains.
“We have seen the occurrence of 16 GLOF events and the total number of deaths from monsoon rains has risen to 77 from June 14 till now. Heavy rains have killed 39 people and injured more than 35 in rain-related incidents in Balochistan while three women and four children were amongst those killed,” she said while addressing a press conference on Wednesday.
Sherry Rehman said apart from Quetta, Turbat and Pasni were also experiencing urban flooding. The Balochistan government has declared emergency for the next 24 hours. While in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, she said flash flooding occurred due to GLOF events at Shaidas and Harchin Nullahs in Laspur Valley.
She said commuters and tourists were stranded in Laspur Valley while returning from Shandur Polo Festival as the main roads were submerged in flood water. “Teams are on the ground to repair the roads and open routes to enable tourists to leave for their next destinations," she said.
The minister praised the timely warning and data generated by NDMA on the onset of heavy rains and windstorms all over the country and said it is not within the mandate of the Ministry of Climate Change to conduct relief and rescue but it is doing so to ensure coordination and timely generation of early warning as well as directives to the provinces.
“I commend the NDMA for timely data generation and monitoring with early warning and continuing to do their work preventing larger loss of life and damage to property in many areas undergoing monsoon in the country,” she said.
Senator Sherry Rehman said the departments will continue to exercise vigilance and provide necessary information to avoid further damage and loss of life throughout the duration of the monsoon season.
She said it was important that during the peak monsoon and tourism season, authorities in both federal and provincial areas remain vigilant and alert for immediate action in the wake of any incident. “And we have seen the GLOF and flash floods happening in Gilgit Baltistan, including land and rock slides leading to damage and road blockages in Hunza, Nagar, Skardu, Shigar and Ghanche. GBPWD and FWO are working round the clock for clearance of debris and necessary repairs. Restoration of the bridges is in progress in Hunza,” she said.
Highlighting the situation in Sindh, she said Sindh has received 261 percent more rains than average while Balochistan has received 274 percent, which is the highest so far. She said average temperatures are based on 30 years of datasets so we can see that this is very high and this is how climate change affects us. “We are the 5th most affected to climatic changes. We were just a few weeks ago talking about heatwaves and forest fires and now we have dived into GLOF and flash floods,” she said.
She said as many as 16 GLOF events have happened till now just in the last two months at a time when the average count is 5 or 6 and it is due to the fact that we are facing the intensity of global warming and we have the most glaciers outside the polar region. “We are having 87 percent more rains than average this year and it is not normal. Nature will not fix itself and go back to normal,” she said adding that we need to make policies and take action to deal with climate change as part of our national narrative. She said the media is already doing a great job of educating the masses but we need to raise awareness as we are doing through the ministry.
Meanwhile, the Balochistan government has declared Quetta a disaster-struck area and imposed a state of emergency in the provincial capital after rain wreaked havoc, killing 13 people in the province. Owing to torrential rains, the rivers and canals of the province have overflowed. Thirteen people were killed and more than 20 were injured when the walls and roofs of dozens of houses collapsed and people drowned due to flash floods.
According to the Balochistan Disaster Management Authority, Qila Saifullah, Zhob, Pishin and Harnai districts have been the most affected by the rains, whereas flood conditions have also been reported in Muslim Bagh, Qamaruddin, and Khushnoob.
There were flash floods overnight in several villages of Khushnoob, and a link bridge was swept away, making it difficult for rescue workers to reach the affected people. According to the assistant commissioner, the wards and emergency rooms of Muslim Bagh Civil Hospital were flooded, while rain in the hilly areas of Muslim Bagh damaged more than 100 houses. Moreover, the link roads of Kan Mehtarzai, Loi Band, and Ragha Sultanzai were washed away in the floods.
The Chaman administration has said that more than 70 houses were affected by the floods in Badizai and Torkhel areas, while the Harnai-Punjab-Loralai Highway has been closed for traffic due to torrential rains.
According to Levies officials, part of the Valin Dam in the Afghan border area of Qamaruddin broke down, causing water to enter low-lying areas and flood 11 homes. The affected people have been shifted to safer places.
Meanwhile, the bodies of two children have been found in the Pathankot River in Loralai. The Levies officials said most of the access roads to remote areas of Qila Saifullah, Zhob, and Harnai have been affected and rescue operations hampered in several areas.
In Karachi, 40-50mm of rain is expected today under the influence of a strong weather system that has developed over the sea. The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said that low air pressure is present in the south of Sindh, which is getting moisture from the North Arabian Sea. According to the PMD, rains are likely to continue in the city till July 9 which may cause flooding in low-lying areas.
A rescue operation has been underway in Jhimpir coalmine to safely evacuate 10 miners trapped in the mine after it was flooded with rainwater. Local labourers, 1122 emergency service’s rescuers and the district administration of Thatta have been involved in the rescue operation to safely evacuate the trapped miners. The rescue workers are facing difficulty due to rainfall, deputy commissioner Thatta Ghazanfar Ali has said.
Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh has said that a rescue operation has been underway for evacuating the miners from the mine. Meanwhile, PPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed deep sorrow over the loss of 77 precious lives due to various accidents during the recent rains in different parts of the country, saying it is no less than a tragedy. In a statement on Wednesday, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the entire nation is grieved over the loss of precious lives.
He said that heavy rains have caused severe damage in Balochistan, while other parts of the country including Punjab have also been severely affected. He said the PPP would not leave the people alone, adding that the government would use all its resources to rescue the rain victims.
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