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Floods devastate Punjab, AJK; death toll reaches 82

06 September, 2014

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MUZAFFARABAD: At least 82 people have been killed across the country after heavy rains brought flash floods and caused homes to collapse in Punjab and Kashmir, government officials said on Friday.

Most deaths occurred in the city of Lahore, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's stronghold, further damaging the government's standing after weeks of protests aimed at forcing Nawaz to step down.

As the political crisis dragged through its third week, people's attention turned to the devastation brought by the floods, with TV channels showing live images of villages and towns inundated by muddy water.

At least 43 people have been killed in Punjab and 30 in Kashmir in recent days, officials said.

"Most of the 43 dead in Punjab died because the roofs of their homes collapsed," said Nisar Saani, a director at the Punjab Disaster Management Authority. "The rest were electrocuted."

Authorities have issued flood warnings across the country.

"We are bracing for more deaths as more rains are expected," said Khawaja Omer Rashid, a spokesman at Kashmir's disaster management authority.

The civilian governments have long been perceived as riddled by corruption and largely ineffective, leaving the Pakistan Army to step in during disasters.

This week, the army moved in across Punjab to carry out flood relief work while poorly resourced civilian authorities struggled to help.

Television pictures showed a military helicopter evacuating flood-hit people in Rawalpindi. No floods were reported in the capital, which has also seen continuous torrential rainfall since Thursday.

Meanwhile, River Chenab is in high tide and has inundated over a dozen low-lying villages.

Kot Saleem, Chhani Sultan, Burj Bhaiyan, Bagh, Uncha Kala, Bahri Tarar, Bhoon Fazal have affected the most.

Qadirabad Barrage Executive Engineer Liaqat Chattha said the barrage was designed to discharge 900,000 cusecs of water, but during the past flood it had discharge more than 900,000 cusecs of water. He said the river was flowing normally at present. However, all possible measures have been taken to meet any emergency. He said the discharge of floodwater at the barrage was 495,000 cusecs, which was likely to be between 600,000 cusecs to 700,000 cusecs during Friday night and early Saturday.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has forecast more rain during next 12 hours in Punjab, Kashmir and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, adding that the rain may continue until Sunday. The PMD also said vast swathes of land in Punjab would be flooded if the rains continued for two days. A number of cities received over 130mm of rain. Lahore has received more than 500mm of rain.

Due to flash flooding in Kashmir region, Jhelum and Neelum rivers are close to overflowing in some places, officials said.

Reports said a high-flood level was being witnessed in River Chenab at Marala Headworks. Authorities in Sialkot and Narowal have issued flood warnings in various areas of Punjab and evacuated local people from villages. The Pakistan Army has also been called in to assist local administration.

The Punjab government declared emergency in the rain-hit areas and launched rescue operations.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced compensation for the bereaved families in his province.

In fresh incidents of roof collapse, a woman died and other five people injured in Shahdara area of Lahore.

In another incident, a couple died when the roof of their house collapsed in Okara.

Meanwhile, a man breathed his last and two others were injured in a land-sliding incident near Sawan area of Rawalpindi. Four people, including a mother and two children, died in Khanpur District. A brother and sister died after the roof of their house collapse in Haripur. In another incident, a landslide killed eight members of a family, including children and women, in the Chilas area of Gilgit-Baltistan.


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