India

Pakistan floods: Thousands flee after dyke breached

  • 10 September 2014
  • From the section India
Workers of Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, the relief wing of banned Pakistan-based charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa, evacuate people to higher grounds on the outskirts of Multan, Pakistan (9 September 2014) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Some 700,000 Pakistanis have been told to leave their homes

Pakistani authorities have breached a strategic dyke in flood-affected Punjab to ease pressure on flood defences downstream and protect urban areas.

More than 700,000 villagers have been forced to flee their homes.

Much of the water is reaching Pakistan from Indian-administered Kashmir where flood levels are now falling.

There have been chaotic scenes at one of the region's main airports, Srinagar, as tourists and migrant workers struggle to leave.

The death toll in the two countries has passed 450, with troops deployed to rescue people and provide assistance.

Media captionCrowds of people displaced by the floods are protesting at the lack of help from authorities, as Andrew North reports

The flooding is the worst Indian-administered Kashmir has seen in decades. Officials say 400,000 people are stranded there and at least 200 people have died.

Pakistan has not experienced floods as devastating since 2010 - officials say 254 people have died in the past few days.

The BBC's Andrew North, near Jhang in Pakistan's Punjab province, says the authorities are struggling to cope with the still growing flood around the city, with thousands more displaced.


At the scene: Andrew North, BBC News, Jhang

Parts of Jhang are now flooded as well as the surrounding area. Many people are taking refuge on dykes with their belongings piled around and their livestock tethered nearby.

Some used tractors to escape the rising waters, carrying rope beds, blankets and feed for the animals. They have now improvised shelters on the dykes.

Rescue teams are still going out on boats to find stranded people. But the relief effort is patchy. Teams of volunteers - some from Islamic groups - have been distributing food, water and medicines, but there's only limited co-ordination and many displaced people say they have not yet received any help.

Some of the new flooding has been caused by authorities breaching dykes to relieve the pressure - that means more villages being inundated.


On Wednesday, emergency teams blew up a dyke on the west bank of the Chenab river upstream from a major dam at Trimmu, in order to prevent flood waters from bursting through. Officials said 200 villages in the area had been flooded as a result.

Floods caused by monsoon rains are an annual event in South Asia and a series of dams on major rivers are aimed at protecting urban areas in particular from being hit by floods. One of Pakistan's largest cities Multan is downstream from Trimmu dam.

Punjab has been taking the brunt of the rain and flooding in Pakistan in recent days. At least 24 people were killed and seven others injured when the roof of a mosque collapsed on Tuesday after days of heavy rain in the city of Lahore, officials said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Officials say 400,000 people are stranded in Indian-administered Kashmir

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the floods were a "sad moment" for the country.

"No-one knew that such a large flood was coming," he told flood victims in Hafiz district on Tuesday.

Across the border, in Indian-administered Kashmir, thousands of stranded people have taken shelter on rooftops of their homes.

Although heavy rains have eased in the Kashmir valley, water levels in Dal Lake in Srinagar are reported to be rising and inundating neighbouring areas.

Using helicopters, boats and naval commandos, troops say they have retrieved more than 76,500 people in flood-affected areas of Kashmir.

Officials said a shortage of rescue boats and lack of telecommunication links - which went down on Monday - were affecting rescue operations.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many areas of Srinagar city are still under water

At the scene: Amber Rahim Shamsi, BBC News, Sialkot

Sialkot, which borders India, was one of the first districts of Pakistani Punjab to be hit by the flood. Many people here say that the district is cursed.

Shelling along the line of control from Indian security forces had been causing a great deal of insecurity in the border villages. Now, water released in the canals from Indian Punjab has inundated thousands of acres of prime agricultural land.

Thirty-two people have died here, but after nearly a week of record-breaking rainfall and flooding, the water is receding from the larger towns.

However, rescue operations are still continuing in two small villages in the district, which are as yet inaccessible. Meanwhile farmers here in the "rice triangle" of Pakistan are asking officials to pump water out of paddies.

Harvesting is due to start soon and many are concerned that if the water does not recede, it will push crop prices up.

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