Top official compares storm to 2005 earthquake

The chief minister of Balochistan Province, Jam Muhammad Yousaf, said on 3 July the scale of the disaster following recent rains and floods was “no less” than that caused by the northern Pakistan earthquake of October 2005, at least in terms of damage to livestock and land.

Loss of life is now being put officially at 150, but there are fears many thousands still missing are in fact dead, swept away by raging rivers.

A spokesman for the Balochistan government, Razzak Bugti, said “a large number of people are still unaccounted for”.

“My six-year-old son is missing. We know he must be dead, but it is too agonising to admit it,” Zawer Magsi, 35, told IRIN in the ravaged town of Jhal Magsi, about 280km southeast of Balochistan’s provincial capital Quetta.

The Balochistan government has said material losses total about US$90 million.

Humanitarian aid

“Food is getting through; army medical teams have inoculated people and treated the injured - but we have no idea how we will manage without our livestock. All my goats are missing,” said Magsi.

In many villages, where access is still arduous, the humanitarian situation is said to be grimmer.

''My six-year-old son is missing. We know he must be dead, but it is too agonising to admit it.''

“No one is helping these people. Some have reached towns like Jhal Magsi to get food, thousands of others are displaced,” said Farooq Ahmed, a human rights activist based in Quetta. He said standing water meant “diseases were spreading”.

Raging river torrents are still wreaking havoc across the Nasirabad and Jaffarabad districts in the centre-west and southeast of Balochistan along its border with Sindh Province.

Communication with people in these areas, as well as those in coastal locations such as the small town of Kappar on Balochistan’s southwestern coast, about 400km west of Karachi, is still poor.

“I have family there. The talk is of severe food shortages, and there is anger about the lack of help,” said Murad Adeel, 26, whose parents and family are based in the area.

Camping out

According to reports from eastern parts of Balochistan bordering Sindh, people whose villages have been flooded by breaches in canals have been camping out along roads or on hills for days.

While food supplies have reportedly been delivered, many are without shelter and additional rain over the past few days has worsened their plight.

Inclement weather in coastal areas of Sindh, including the town of Thatta about 100km east of Karachi, has meanwhile continued to add to the misery of people.

Infrastructural damage

Major road links between Quetta and Karachi, and along coastal areas remain cut off and damage to infrastructure means large parts of Balochistan are without gas and some without power.

Villages have been inundated by water, and some remain accessible only by helicopter.

The heavy rain was easing and floodwaters had begun to recede on 4 July in Jhal Magsi and surrounding Khuzdar District but the devastation is immense.

The arid province of Balochistan in southern Pakistan rarely receives heavy rain, and the recent storm has caused havoc. Flimsy homes have been destroyed, livestock swept away and farmland damaged.

kh/at/cb