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Balochistan

No let-up in nature’s fury in K-P, Balochistan

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SWABI/
QUETTA:

The monsoon force in most parts of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) did not lose its knockout punch on Monday as floods continued their assault unabated, leaving many dead while battering homes and toppling trees.

According to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), nine more people died in rain-related incidents in Balochistan over the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 136, while 70 others have been injured since June 1.

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The authority said several roads and bridges were washed away by floods. It said that a bridge connecting Lasbela and Sindh, which was damaged seven days ago, had not yet been repaired.

Roads linking Quetta to Ziarat, Chaman and Sibi had also been affected by rains. Around 13,535 houses have been destroyed in the province, out of which 10,129 were partially damaged and 3,406 were completely destroyed.

The authority said relief activities were under way in the province.

Meanwhile, the heavy downpour has wreaked havoc on many parts of K-P— including Swabi and Mardan – and has flooded houses and markets, blowing off roofs and forcing many out of their homes.

The rainfall which began on Saturday and continued into Sunday morning overwhelmed rivers and sewer systems, submerging low-lying areas and blocking main routes. At least four persons, including three women, were left dead in rain-related incidents.

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Similarly, reports said at least three people were killed and four injured when a house roof caved in the Madde Baba area of Mardan district on Monday. The injured have been shifted to tehsil headquarters hospital Takht-Bhai.

PM seeks action against failure in relief efforts

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reached Quetta on a day-long visit on Monday to oversee relief operations in flood-stricken areas of Balochistan and expressed serious concerns over the non-availability of food and water in the camp in Balochistan’s Qila Saifullah district.

Read: PMD warns of ‘above-normal’ rainfall this month

He sought action against officials for their failure to provide people with food and water.

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This was his second visit in the last three days to meet the flood-ravaged people and review the pace of rescue and relief operations in the province.

“This pained me a lot, why food is not provided to them”, the dismayed premier chided the officials present on the occasion.

The premier said immediate action should be taken against the district administrations concerned, adding that Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo had assured him that action would be initiated against those responsible.

The prime minister said he had issued directives to ensure food was provided at relief camps from today.

He asked the chief minister to initiate action against the officers responsible for the negligence.

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CM Bizenjo immediately directed the provincial chief secretary to suspend the officials concerned if the food was not being provided at the relief camps.

“We were told people have been given one month’s ration,” he said, instructing the chief secretary to probe the matter and suspend the relevant deputy commissioner (DC), tehsildar, PDMA in-charge and relevant team if the food was not available.

“They are all suspended and action will be taken against them,” he assured the prime minister.

PM Shehbaz also visited Chaman and addressed the tribal elite and flood-affected people. He said the National Highway Authority (NHA) would ensure the reopening of the highways very soon.

He was later given a detailed briefing by the NDMA after landing in Quetta, following which he issued directives for the immediate disbursement of financial assistance to the families of those who lost their lives due to rains and floods, according to state-run Radio Pakistan.

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Date crops in Makran belt destroyed

Meanwhile, the rainwater has also inundated date palm fields on a broad scale, spelling disaster for the crop in Panjgur, Turbat and other parts of the Makran belt.

“We have suffered huge financial losses because of rains and floods”, Muhammad Jan, a dates farmer and dealer told The Express Tribune.

The dates season was about to start when floods and heavy rainfall started in the area. “There were good dates for production this year but floods destroyed everything,” Mr Jan said.

As per the statistics shared by the PDMA, floods have destroyed standing crops on more than 200,000 acres of land in various parts of Balochistan. The financial losses of dates farmers in Makran are estimated at around Rs2 billion, Shabir Ahmed Mengal, the commissioner of Makran Division told The Express Tribune.

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The provincial government has ordered all deputy commissioners of the flood-hit districts to assess the damages and submit a comprehensive report to the government.

The floods have also destroyed grape orchards in Pishin, Killa Abdullah and other districts of the province.



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Balochistan

Floods expose vulnerabilities of people

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Balochistan was devastated by flash floods that began in June and have since killed more than 500 people, while close to 50,000 houses have been either been damaged or flattened so far, displacing thousands of people, according to BBC report.

The monsoons first hit Pakistan in the middle of June. The country’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said they brought 133% more rainfall than the annual average, which has not happened in years.

The downpour triggered floods which wreaked havoc across provinces, swallowing up entire villages, roads and bridges. For days, people were trapped, landlocked with little help, the report added, quoting local media reports.

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One of the devastated villages is Sadori, the report said, where 22-year-old Muhammad Aslam and a few others have returned to see if they can rebuild their life. But it’s a grim sight that greets them. Nothing can be saved – even their farm land has been turned into a muddy swamp.

“I lost everything,” Aslam told BBC, sharing his worries about more rains in the coming weeks. He has moved his family to a temporary shelter on higher ground. Authorities set up the tented accommodation as part of relief efforts.

In Balochistan alone, more than 18,000 homes have either been partially or completely destroyed. People in Sadori say they do not know how much time they have until the next disaster. Their fears are not without merit.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has warned of a new monsoon spell, expected to bring strong winds and heavy rains to some parts of the country. This comes just as water levels were beginning to subside, and the water level in many rivers was starting to go back to normal.

And the floods have already severely hit livelihoods in a country where half the population still depends on agriculture — either selling livestock or farming. Muhammad Saleh – a cotton and wheat farmer – said that in a matter of days he lost a year’s worth of harvest to the deluge.

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The 40-year-old father of two lived on a compound with his brother and other family members – 27 in total. The rest of his family have moved to a temporary shelter until it’s safe to return home. Locals told the BBC that the shelters often run out of food, and the rations are meagre.

Local government agencies have opened camps in flood-hit regions with the help of relief organisations, and are working to help relocate families. However, authorities have admitted that relief efforts have been slow, but they say it’s not a matter of will but of resources.

Saleh said he is looking for temporary work as a labourer but with most farm land in the area destroyed, work is difficult to come by. “Winter is coming and we don’t have anything – not even bedding. I do not know how will we live or keep the children warm.”

In another village in Lasbela district the community have gathered to pray with a family who’ve lost three people to the floods. “We found them the next morning – their bodies were stuck in a tree. It’s so painful for me to lose them this way,” said Ahmad, who lost his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Pakistan is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change despite contributing less than 1% of global emissions, according to the Climate Change Risk Index 2021 by NGO German Watch. Local weather experts have warned there are already signs of the climate crisis.

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Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2022.



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Balochistan

Balochistan to get priority in provision of solar systems

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ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday directed for prioritising Balochistan in the provision of solar systems, stressing that the solarisation would help reduce the fuel import bill.

“The people will be provided with solar systems as an alternate to the costly electricity being generated using the imported fuel. The solarisation would not only reduce the import bill of costly fuel but also help generate low-cost and environment friendly electricity,” Shehbaz added.

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The prime minister directed the authorities concerned to carry out a comprehensive planning for an early execution of the solar projects. He called for giving priority to Balochistan in the provision of solar systems across the country.

He was chairing a meeting to review measures for promotion of solar energy in the country.

Earlier the meeting was briefed about the solar projects as an alternate to costly power projects. It was informed was informed that the government would launch solarisation projects of around 14,000 megawatts within next few months.

Out of these, the solar projects of around 9,000MW would be executed on priority, the officials told the meeting. Under the initiative, they said that the solar systems would not only be provided on reduced prices but also be given tax incentives.

The prime minister said that the alternate energy policy introduced by the previous Imran Khan-led government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 2020 failed not only to produce the required results but also to attract investment in the sector.

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Shehbaz asked an inquiry commission for an early submission of a report on suspension of power projects during the PTI government’s tenure. He also sought a detailed report on the amount received as fuel price adjustment through the electricity bills.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2022.



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Balochistan

Gastro breaks out in Pishin; two children die

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QUETTA:

After the cholera outbreak, which claimed dozens of lives across Balochistan due to non-availability of clean drinking water in the rural hinterlands, gastroenteritis killed two children in Pishin district on Monday.

The outbreak of gastro has affected dozens of children in the Kohlu and Pishin districts. “Two children have died of gastroenteritis in the Killi Sheikhalzai area of Pishin district and hundreds more have been infected,” District Health Officer (DHO) Pishin Dr Ghaffar told The Express Tribune. He said treatment is being provided to hundreds of patients infected by the ailment.

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Several dozen have been admitted to District Headquarters Hospital Pishin where an emergency has been declared to deal with the situation.

Dr Ghaffar said that the health department has established 24 free medical camps in various localities in the district to provide free and timely treatment to gastro-affected children. However, people of the area complained about the lack of medicines and doctors in the District Headquarters Hospital.

“We have been told to buy medicines from the open market and most of the people are really poor villagers who cannot afford them as they had lost all their household items in the rains subsequent flooding,” a local resident Muhammad Khan observed.

He rushed his son to DHQ Hospital after he developed symptoms of the disease.

In Balochistan’s Kohlu district, dozens of children were also infected by the waterborne disease recently. A four-day campaign was conducted across the province with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) to educate people about the waterborne ailment and created awareness about preventive measures.

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It may be recalled that at least five people died of cholera in the Dera Bugti area of Balochistan in June this year. Similarly, 10 people lost their lives in Zhob and its surroundings last month, health officials said, adding that the situation across the province was not good.

“The outbreak of gastro and cholera is the result of contaminated water use,” Secretary of Health Balochistan Hafiz Tahir said while talking to The Express Tribune.

He said the department has declared an emergency throughout the province to deal with it. The WHO has also extended all possible support to the Balochistan Health Department to make sure timely treatment of the infected children, Tahir noted.

Most of the cholera, gastro, and diarrhoea cases were reported from Kohlu, Khuzdar, Barkhan, Pishin and other parts of Balochistan. These diseases have claimed precious human lives.



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