Since June 15, rain and floods across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have killed 289 people and injured 348
oor Muhammad 37, and his younger brother were walking fast, barefoot. His clothes were wet and he was in a panic. Holding on to the ropes of five cows, the brothers were heading towards dry land. It was a tragic evening on August 26, when the gushing flood water of Swat River entered houses in the Khyali area of Charsadda.
After massive devastation in Dir and Swat, the flood water entered the houses near the villages established near the riverbed. “The flood water suddenly entered our home. It carried away everything. We hardly had time to save ourselves and our women and children,” Noor Muhammad says.
Noor Muhammad is not alone. All those living near the Khyali area have similar stories to tell. Hundreds of houses have been affected. In Charsadda, those living near the river banks had earlier been asked by the district administration to leave. Hundreds of people from the nearby village had come to witness the flood. When the situation at Khyali went out of control, Additional Deputy Commissioner Sania Safi ordered police to disperse the crowd. As the water level rose at Khayali Bridge, she informed the control room and diverted Peshawar-Charsadda traffic to the motorway.
For the affected people, the administration has established relief camps at Abdul Wali Khan Sports Complex in Charsadda and at the postgraduate college. A large number of people and their cattle went towards the motorway. The flood water has receded now and the people have returned to their homes.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) says since June 15, rain and floods across the province have killed 289 people and injured 348. It says 35,123 houses have been destroyed and 52,327 houses have been partially damaged. The district administration, Rescue 1122, and other agencies have transported 406,568 people to safer places. 69,775 people were rescued during rescue operations in various parts of the province.
In the upper riparian areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the flood water has receded. A majority of the affected people has returned to their homes. District administration teams are collecting details about the damage. Heavy losses have been reported in Swat, Chitral, Dir, Kohistan, Charsadda, Nowshera, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan districts.
“In the flood-affected districts at least 674,348 people have been displaced,” the PDMA says. To deal with the emergency situation in the flood-hit areas, the PDMA has released Rs 750 million. “The restoration of flood victims is our first duty. All institutions are working day and night to help the victims under the direction of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan,” PDMA Director General Sharif Hussain says.
In the Lower Kohistan district, 12 people were killed due to the high flood in Dober Nullah. Dozens of houses and important bridges have been damaged. The lack of road infrastructure is hindering relief activities. An army helicopter is supplying food and medicine to the far-flung affected areas. At least 800 houses have been damaged in Kohistan. “After the flood devastation, diarrhoea has killed six people,” Shahnawaz, a Kohistan resident, says.
Barrister Saif, the chief minister’s special assistance on information and public relations, says the provincial government has successfully managed rescue operations in affected areas. “The water level in Swat River has receded. The two helicopters of the CM and the army took part in the rescue operation in Swat, Dir and Chitral. At least 178 tourists were rescued in Dir and 210, including some foreigners, in Chitral using the helicopters, he says.
He says the KP government has launched relief operations in all areas of the flood-hit districts. “The provincial government is supplying food and medicines. The government has also established 99 relief camps. We are providing food and medicines to those living in the camps,” Barrister Saif says.
Zahid Khan, the president of the Swat Hotels Association, says at least 60 hotels have been damaged in Swat. “The hotel industry has lost Rs 30 billion due to recent floods. We didn’t learn from the 2010 flood. The community and the administration were unable to construct a protection wall. We did not take appropriate soil conservation and water management measures in Swat. 12 years ago, when the flood had hit Swat, aid was distributed among the affected people but then we forgot everything. From 2006 to 2009, the Swat hotel industry had suffered due to militancy in the valley. Before the recent floods, the hotel industry had lost Rs 10 billion due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Zahid Khan says.
“Any organisation or individual, intending to construct a bridge, a culvert, a cross-drain structure or flood protection works on rivers, streams, nullahs, drains and water channels shall obtain an NOC, before the commencement of works,” the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa River Protection (Amendment) Act, 2014, states.
Zahid Khan says the KP government is planning an amendment to the River Protection Act 2014. It is expected that any construction activity within 200 feet of the river will be prohibited.
Syed Anwar Zeb, from Gabin Jaba, a picturesque area of Swat, says the flood has washed away his two trout hatcheries. “At least 10 trout hatcheries have been damaged by the flood in Kabin Jaba,” Anwar Zeb says. The KP Fisheries Department says more than 200 trout hatcheries worth millions of rupees were washed away in the flood water in Malakand division. The district administrations are collecting the data about the losses in the flood-hit areas. After the survey, the PDMA will release the actual loss data for the province.
The writer is a multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney