Flood villages to save a city

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani engineers cut an embankment for one of the country’s largest lakes on Sunday to release rising waters in hopes of saving a nearby town and city from flooding as authorities predicted that more monsoon rain was already on its way to the country. devastated south.

While officials hope cutting off the shores of Lake Manchar will protect around half a million people who live in the town of Sehwan and the city of Bhan Saeedabad, villages that are home to 150,000 people stand in the way of the diverted waters. . The hometown of the chief minister of Sindh province was among the affected villages, whose residents were warned to evacuate in advance, according to the provincial information minister.

More than 1,300 people have died and millions have lost their homes in flooding caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan this year, which many experts have blamed on climate change. In response to the unfolding disaster, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” during the crisis. He plans to visit flood-affected areas on September 9.

Several countries have airlifted supplies, but the Pakistani government has pleaded for even more help, faced with the daunting task of feeding and sheltering those affected, as well as protecting them from waterborne diseases.

While the floods affected much of the country, Sindh province was the most affected.

With meteorologists predicting more rain in the coming days, especially around Lake Manchar in Sindh, and its level already rising, authorities ordered water to be released. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah made the appeal even though his own village might be flooded, said Sharjil Inam Memon, the provincial information minister. The government helped people in villages in the path of the waters to evacuate ahead of time, Memon said.

According to Fariduddin Mustafa, district administrator of Jamshoro, where the affected villages are located, the hope was that the water, once released, would flow into the nearby Indus River, but the lake level continued to rise even after the cut. Authorities have also warned residents of nearby Dadu district that they could be at risk of further flooding in the coming days.

While the relief valve was created in one area, army engineers worked elsewhere to strengthen the shores of Lake Manchar, which is Pakistan’s largest natural freshwater lake and one of the largest from Asia.

In its latest report, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority put the death toll since mid-June – when the monsoon rains started weeks earlier than usual – at 1,314, while more deaths have been reported in flood-affected areas of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. . The report said 458 children were among the dead.

Rescue operations continued on Sunday with troops and volunteers using helicopters and boats to evacuate stranded people from flooded areas to relief camps, the authority said. Tens of thousands of people are already living in such camps, and thousands more have taken refuge by the roadsides on higher ground.

Hira Ikram, a doctor at a camp set up by the British Islamic Mission in Sukkur, said many people were suffering from scabies, gastrointestinal infections and fevers.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who visits flood-hit areas and relief camps daily, appealed on Sunday for more international aid.

“With more than 400 (children) dead, they represent a third of the total death toll. Now they are even more at risk of waterborne diseases, UNICEF and other global agencies should help them,” he tweeted.

In fact, UNICEF delivered tons of medicines, medical supplies, water purification tablets and nutritional supplements to Pakistan on Sunday.

The Alkidmat Foundation, a social welfare organization, said its volunteers were using boats to deliver ready-to-eat meals and other aid to residents as well as animal feed on a small island in the Indus. The group also distributed food and needed items to people living by the roadside.

In the northwest of the country, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the provincial disaster management authority has warned of more rains, possible flash floods and landslides in the coming week in the districts of Malakand and Hazara. Authority spokesman Taimur Khan on Sunday urged residents not to travel to any of the areas that have already been flooded in recent weeks.

The government’s initial estimates said the devastation caused $10 billion in damage, but Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Saturday that “the scale of the devastation is massive and requires an immense humanitarian response for 33 million people”.

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Associated Press reporter Mohammad Farooq in Sukkur, Pakistan; Asim Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan and Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan contributed to this report.

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