Pak alert as flash floods submerge dozens of Punjab villages

After devastating northwest Pakistan, flood waters surged into the central Punjab province, submerging dozens of villages even as rescue workers struggled to rush aid to the 3.2 million people hit by it.

Last Updated: Aug 03, 2010, 21:14 PM IST

Lahore/Peshawar: After devastating
northwest Pakistan, flood waters on Tuesday surged into the central
Punjab province, submerging dozens of villages even as rescue
workers struggled to rush aid to the 3.2 million people hit by
the worst floods in eight decades.

Flood waters entered Kot Addu city in Muzaffarghar
district of Punjab and threatened to inundate a key power
station and an oil refinery. The railway track connecting Kot
Addu and Taunsa Sharif too was inundated.
After floods left up to 1,500 people dead in the
country, the army has stepped up relief operations using boats
and helicopters to evacuate 4,000 stranded people in the Kot
Addu, Muzaffargarh and Layyah areas, officials said. In some
areas, the floods were so severe that only treetops and roofs
of buildings could be seen above the water.

With floods hitting Mianwali, Bhakkar, Dera Ghazi
Khan, Rajanpur, Muzaffarghar and Rahim Yar Khan districts,
over 750 villages were affected in southern Punjab.

More than 1.5 million people have been displaced in
the province and crops in thousands of acres have been
destroyed, officials said.

In the northwest, fresh rains in flood-hit areas of
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province affected relief operations,
including helicopter flights to ferry emergency supplies to
affected people.
The water level at Warsak dam, Pakistan`s third
largest dam, rose following the fresh rains and authorities
asked residents on the outskirts of Peshawar to leave their
homes.

There were reports of people blocking roads in areas
like Nowshera in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to protest the perceived
delay in receiving aid from the government.

Heavy showers also hit flood-affected areas of
southwestern Balochistan province and officials said more rain
was forecast in the coming days. Fresh floods damaged homes,
roads, bridges and railway tracks.

The chief of Sindh`s Provincial Disaster Management
Authority, Muhammad Saleh Ahmed Faruqui, today said
authorities were hopeful that flood waters would pass through
the region without causing any damage though military
contingents had been placed on alert as a precautionary
measure.

Arrangements have also been made for evacuating people
from vulnerable areas, he said.

An estimated 3.2 million people, including 1.4 million
children, have been affected by the worst floods witnessed in
northern Pakistan in 80 years, UNICEF said.

Aid agencies warned that that diarrhoea and other
waterborne diseases could spread as many people in flood-hit
areas had no access to drinking water and medical teams had
been unable to reach these regions.

"The biggest threats are the outbreak of waterborne
diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, especially deadly to
children. We have already received reports of cases of
diarrhoea amongst children," said Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF
Representative in Pakistan.

He said food, drinking water, health supplies, high
energy biscuits, clothing for women and children and vaccines
were needed urgently.

Flooding also caused widespread destruction of
infrastructure, with roads submerged and bridges swept away.
"Power lines are down and damage has been done to
hospitals, schools and sanitation systems.

In one district, UNICEF reported that 80 per cent of
drinking wells had been destroyed.

Many families are camping out in schools and other
buildings located on higher ground," he said.

The widespread damage to crops and loss of livestock
is causing food scarcity and "will have negative implications
for the future", said Mogwanja.

Officials have said that 1,500 people have lost their
lives in the unprecedented floods triggered by heavy monsoon
rains. Deaths were reported from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab,
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Northern Areas.

PTI