Alert in Multan as Pakistan flood river peaks

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Media captionPakistan's military delivers aid to stranded people in flood hit areas

Pakistan's Multan city and surrounding areas in Punjab province are on high alert as the Chenab river continues to surge south at extremely high levels.

Punjab government authorities are taking measures to protect two crucial bridges in the district.

The waters have been moving south through Punjab, inundating large tracts of farmland.

Meanwhile in Indian-administered Kashmir, where waters are receding, thousands are still stranded.

On Thursday, Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir admitted his government was caught off guard by the magnitude of the disaster.

Breach in riverbed

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Thousands have had to be evacuated from Punjab

Pakistan's Multan region has been the focal point of the most recent relief and rescue operations, with thousands of people evacuated from low-lying land along the river.

A torrent of water is expected to pass through Multan on Friday, flood control official Chaudhry Muhammad Zahid told the Express Tribune newspaper.

Analysis: M Ilyas Khan, BBC News, Islamabad

The floods this year have been the worst since 2010, but not quite as widespread.

Back then, an unusually heavy downpour in early monsoon season took people by surprise. Rains hit across most of the western Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush ranges, devastating infrastructure and causing hundreds of deaths up north.

Down in the southern province of Sindh, punishing rains over subsequent weeks prolonged the human misery for months, leading to a large-scale displacement of population.

The downpours this year have come at the very end of the monsoon season, and its severity has been restricted to the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Much of this water fed into Chenab river, sending down its worst floods since 1992. The people that had colonised those parts of the river-bed that had turned dry over the last two decades are those most affected by these latest deluges.

But officials also say that Multan city itself is in little danger of facing floods, although adjoining areas were submerged.

Multan, one of Pakistan's largest cities, is surrounded by vast tracts of agricultural land and is one of the country's major cotton producers.

The authorities there say they have been trying to prevent floods destroying a crucial bridge and over-running parts of the city.

"We effected a 50-meter wide cut in the bypass road north of Multan this morning, and the water is passing through it now.... This will allow flood waters to flow down instead of accumulate and threaten Head Mohammad Wala bridge," Punjab official Chaudhry Abdul Waheed Arain told the BBC's M Ilyas Khan.

"We have also planted explosives to blow another cut in the road if pressure builds up," he added, saying that they expected the pressure to ease by Saturday morning.

Local media quoted Punjab Food Minister Bilal Yasin as saying that 1.8 million people had so far been affected by floods across the districts where emergency measures were in place.

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