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First monsoon flooding tests preparedness in Pakistan
Devastating floods have become common in recent years
SIALKOT, 12 August 2013 (IRIN) - Monsoon rain, which started at the end of June in Pakistan, has already killed 80 people and left over 81,000 displaced, according to the National Disaster Management Authority
(NDMA), despite improved preparedness plans being in place.
Sialkot District, about 120km northeast of Lahore, saw torrential rain on 6 August: Drains almost immediately overflowed, villages were inundated, agricultural land damaged and residents left stranded as water surrounded homes.
“People are being rescued in all the affected areas,” District Officer (coordination) Malik Abid Hussain Awan told IRIN, saying that 47 villages in the district had been affected.
The government and relief agencies are on high alert this year after serious flooding in the last three years
. Flooding in 2010 killed around 2,000 people.
There has been some more rain over the past few days and the fear is that, with more rain forecast for later this month, tributaries of the rivers Ravi and Chenab in Punjab could burst their banks.
However, the authorities say they are well prepared. “We have held meetings including those with the chief ministers, chief secretaries, and major humanitarian agencies well ahead of the monsoon,” NDMA spokesman Brig Kamran Zia told IRIN.
Fifty-one districts (out of more than 100) have been identified as at risk from floods. Primary responsibility for managing flooding was allocated to district-level disaster management authorities following devolution in 2010
NDMA’s plan, Zia said, included the securing of protective walls along water channels, the provision of boats to rescue marooned people and the readiness of armed forces to intervene where required. Training has also been given to district teams.
“Though a shortage of resources is a problem, we have a plan in place to meet the food and non-food needs of eight million people,” Zia said.
This year there is better tracking of meteorological information than before, the government says. Risks are being assessed based on data from the country’s Metrological Department, regional weather monitoring bodies, and Pakistan’s Satellite Research and Development Centre.
"We have lost our homes and lands in many cases, and are living with very little shelter of any kind"
In terms of stocks, NDMA has decided that food rations for affected and displaced people will be bought as required. “We naturally didn't want to waste money on buying things that would not be needed, and of course food items such as wheat flour, and so on, are perishable and cannot be stored indefinitely in warehouses,” said Zia, adding that any items required could be bought with a “two-day lead time”.
“The provincial and federal governments already finalized contingency plans well in time, and have started responding to the affected people. But we still need to strengthen the DDMA [District Disaster Management Authorities] and local administrations as they are the first responders,” Arif Jabbar Khan, international country director for Oxfam, told IRIN.
So far, according to Oxfam, the government has provided 15,330 tents, 3,996 food packs, 500 blankets, 13,000 mosquito nets and 12 de-watering pumps, and miscellaneous food and non-food items are also reaching affected communities.
The heaviest rain in the past few days has been in Jacobabad and Karachi in Sindh Province, Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province, in the Kalat region of Balochistan as well as in parts of Punjab, according to Kamran Shariff, a humanitarian affairs officer with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Pakistan.
“It was unusually strong spells of rain in a relatively short spell of time in vulnerable areas which instigated flash floods across the country,” Shariff told IRIN.
He said there was urban flooding mainly in Karachi, and to a lesser extent in Hyderabad and Sukkur. “As always, we are poorly prepared for such hazards mainly due to inadequate drainage capacity and choked water outflow channels.”
Snow and glacier melt
are contributing to water flows in the north of the country.
NGO Support to Deprived People
, headquartered in Shikarpur in Sindh Province, has made an appeal
for more funding and spoken of the plight of affected people.
“We have not really received any assistance at all apart from a few food parcels handed out by some NGO. We have lost our homes and lands in many cases, and are living with very little shelter of any kind,” said Farid Ahmed who, with his family, moved away from his home in the Jhal Magsi District of Balochistan to higher ground near his village.