Bahawalnagar bears Sutlej flood’s brunt


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BAHAWALNAGAR: The flood situation aggravated in Bahawalnagar as one person was killed on Monday for building a floodwall to keep out the water, while the displaced families complained of lack of facilities at the relief camps set up by the authorities concerned in the district.

The high flood in the Sutlej river washed away levees, and villages at several places, displacing more than 162,257 people. Officials said that 153,231 acres of land with standing crops was under water, while the rescuers evacuation more than 10,500 villagers and 1,809 cattle heads to safety.

The water level in Sutlej river has reached “extremely high level” in Bahawalnagar, officials said. The floodwater entered 90 villages along the river bank. Amid a tense situation, a young man was killed and another injured in a dispute over construction of a levee.

The flood in Sutlej river started from August 17, after India discharged floodwater in the river flowing heavy rain. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) of Punjab said that 178 relief camps and 95 medical camps had been set up in the affected districts.

However, during a visit to the affected areas of Bahawalnagar revealed that complaints against lack of facilities were rife. There was even a protest at a relief camp in Chak Jaway. “People are hungry and thirsty. They are sitting under trees or on high grounds with their families and animals,” a protester said.

“There is nothing to eat, we are starving. No food or fodder is being given anywhere in these 30 relief camps by the administration.” When asked, a district administration official, while speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “We do not have any budget for the provision of food.”

Basheeran Bibi, a widow, told Daily City News that she had prepared dowry for her two daughters but everything was washed away in the floods. “I am diabetic and suffer from renal issue. I can’t work anymore but no-one is coming to help,” Bibi, who worked as a labourer, said with teary eyes.

PDMA Director General Imran Qureshi said that so far, 100,000 people had been shifted to safer places, besides emergency transport was provided to more than 200,000 others. Qureshi added that cooked food was being provided to 70,000 people in the affected districts.

Punjab Relief Commissioner Nabeel Javed said that all resources were being used to restore the flood affected areas. “I am satisfied with the performance of the rescue agencies,” he added in a statement. “The administration officers are present in the field.”

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said Ganda Singh Wala, positioned along Sulemanki Headworks, was experiencing medium floods with a declining trend. Citing such reports, Nabeel Javed said that the situation would improve in the coming days.

In the neighbouring Bahawalpur district, officials said, a peak discharge in Sutlej at the Empress bridge reached 130,000 cusecs, flooding the settlements of Weaslan, Sahlan and Lal De Goth on Sunday. Flood had also hit Kahror Pukka tehsil of the Lodhran district situated on the other side of the river.

The NDMA indicated that the currently Kasur, Okara, Bahawalnagar, Pakpattan, and Vehari districts were at risk, while relief operations were under way in Multan, Sahiwal, Rajanpur, Khanewal, Bahawalnagar, Layyah, Lodhran and Okara.

According to the Punjab rescue service, a total of 112,137 individuals had been evacuated from affected areas and 151,300 have been transported to safer locations between July 9 and August 27. Officials said that more than 6,000 people were evacuated in the last 24 hours.

A report issued by the Pakistan Meteorological Department’s Flood Forecasting Division warned that “a fresh wet spell of moderate intensity was likely to start in the upper catchments areas of all the major rivers from September 2”.

It added that “no high flood situation was expected in any of the major rivers” but warned that “the flows in Sutlej river were subjected to the release of water from India”. The PDMA director general assured that the relief activities would continue until the issue of flood was resolved completely.

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