Pakistan floods: thousands urged to evacuate their homes

Floods in Pakistan&nbsp ;: thousands of residents asked to evacuate their homes

The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September in Pakistan, brings its share of drama and destruction every year.

Thousands of people living near flooded rivers in northern Pakistan were ordered to evacuate their homes on Saturday after devastating monsoon had already caused nearly 1,000 deaths.

Numerous rivers in Khyber Pahktunkhwa province – criss-crossed by steep mountains and valleys – overflowed and destroyed dozens of buildings, including a 150-room hotel washed away by raging waters.

The house we had built after years of hard work has disappeared before our eyes, lamented Junaid Khan, 23, owner of two fish farms in Charsadda.

We sat on the side of the road and watched our dream house sink, he added.

The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September, is essential for the irrigation of plantations and for replenishing the water resources of the Indian subcontinent. But it also brings its share of tragedy and destruction every year.

More than 33 million people – one in seven Pakistanis – have been affected by the floods and nearly one million homes have been destroyed or severely damaged, according to the government.

Because of the torrential rains, the rivers came out of their beds.

Saturday, the authorities have ordered thousands of Swat district residents to evacuate their homes before the rivers burst their banks.

At first some people refused to leave, but when the water level rose they agreed, said Bilal Faizi, spokesman for the emergency services.

According to the authorities, this bad weather is comparable to that of 2010, the year during which 2000 people were killed and nearly a fifth of the country was submerged by the rains.

Shah Faisal, a farmer from Charsadda who took refuge on the side of a road with his wife and two daughters, also saw his house swallowed up by a river, as the powerful current eroded the bank.

Here, the Jindi, Swat and Kabul rivers flow through narrow gorges in the city before joining the Indus, which also overflows downstream.

We escaped death, said the farmer.

Pakistani officials attribute the devastating weather to climate change, saying Pakistan is unfairly suffering the consequences of irresponsible environmental practices elsewhere in the world.

Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to climate change. It is in eighth position among the countries most at risk from extreme weather events, according to a study by the NGO Germanwatch.

The rains have turned the residences into ruins.

However, the inhabitants also have their share of responsibility for the damage caused.

Corruption and poorly established urban planning programs have led to the construction of thousands of buildings in flood-prone areas.

The government declared a state of emergency on Friday and mobilized the army to deal with this disaster of a rare magnitude, as Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman has called it.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), since the start of the monsoon in June, floods have ravaged more than 80,000 hectares of crops, destroyed 3,100 kilometers of roads and won 149 bridges.

At Sukkur, more than 1,000 kilometers south of Swat, farmland irrigated by the Indus River was under water and tens of thousands of people took refuge on elevated roads and highways.

We opened wide the floodgates of the massive Sukkur dam on the Indus, his supervisor said , Aziz Soomro, adding that the peak of the flood was expected for Sunday.

These floods come at the worst time for Pakistan, whose economy is collapsing and which has been in deep political crisis since the ousting of Prime Minister Imran Khan in April, following a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly.

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