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PAKISTAN: Death and devastation following severe winter weather

Islamabad, 18 February 2003 (IRIN) - Heavy rains and snow across Pakistan have battered parts of the country, with reports of deaths and devastation caused to land and households.

"We are investigating the matter. We cannot determine the exact damage yet, but houses have been destroyed, cattle and other possessions washed away and people have died," Ali Nawaz Mallah, a government relief official, told IRIN from the southern port city of Karachi on Tuesday.

Local media reported that five people, including two women, were killed and about 35 injured as a tornado struck Ali Muhammad Khaskheli Goth and Saleh Muhammad Jumani Goth in Gadap town, some 30 km north of Karachi on Monday. More than 80 houses and a couple of poultry farms were also destroyed, while a large number of livestock perished in the violent storm that hit the two villages. The stormy winds were followed by rain that continued for hours.

In Hyderabad, 160 km (100 miles) northeast of Karachi, four people were killed and at least 40 injured when houses collapsed and several areas were submerged in flood water. "We have declared an emergency in Hyderabad, where 80 percent of the neighbourhoods are inundated," said Mayor Makhdoom Rafique-uz Zaman. "Education institutions have been closed for three days and relief work is in full swing."

Mumtaz Ahmed, the relief commissioner for Balochistan, told IRIN from the provincial capital, Quetta, that about 200 houses had been damaged in the village of Padgi Lashkar Khan, some 100 km southwest of Quetta in Chaghi District, after torrential rains caused flooding.

He said that a dam had burst in Kuchlagh, some 25 km north of Quetta. The ensuing torrents of water had damaged orchards, farms and houses. "We are assessing the damage all over the province and will soon have a complete picture," he said.

Turab Haider Zaidi, a deputy secretary with the emergency relief cell in the capital, Islamabad, told IRIN that the government had enough capacity in terms of finances and relief assistance to cover the damage. "Once we have complete information, we will try to mitigate the damage done," he said.

The meteorological office in Pakistan forecast that the current weather pattern would continue in the higher parts of the country for the next 24 hours, causing more rain and snowfall.

The current torrential rains are unusual, even though Pakistan normally receives winter rains from January to March. "This will not end drought conditions in parts of the country, but will help in improving the water reservoirs across the country," Qamar Zaman, the head of the meteorological office, told IRIN.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Afghanistan, Reuters reported on Monday that three children had drowned after being swept away by flood waters in the Takhta Pul area near the southern city of Kandahar.

"We have had a significant amount of rain in recent days. This has created temporary road disruptions from Kandahar to [the western city of Herat] and Chaman [on the eastern border with Pakistan]," Douglas Higgins, the resident programme officer for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), told IRIN from Kandahar.

He noted that the rains had not significantly affected UNICEF's operations, but might serve to ameliorate the effects of the widespread drought in the region, now in its fifth year. "It might be fair to say that it will halt the worsening of the drought," he said.


Theme (s): Natural Disasters,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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