300,000 Stranded by Floods in Chitral, Pakistan

The flood situation in Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan has now left almost 300,000 cut off, according to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA).

An official update from yesterday, 21 July, says that a further victim has been reported, bringing the death toll to 3 people. However, the exact number of fatalities cannot be ascertained due to inaccessibility of different affected areas. All three fatalities occurred in Broze, Chitral, after buildings collapsed.

Further damage assessments say that over 50 houses have been severely damaged and 100 houses completely destroyed, as well as at least 10 bridges and numerous roads. Water supply has been damaged or cut off in Broze, Orghuch, Ushusht, Nisur Gol and Mastuj.

Glacial Lake Outburst Floods

Officials say that the current situation was caused by “Glacial Lake Outburst Floods” after unusually heavy rain fell on 15 and 16 July, and again on 19 July, 2015.

PDMA say that the Glacial Lake Outburst Floods caused “massive torrents and flash floods, washing away villages, access roads, bridges, drinking water supply systems, buildings and agricultural crops”. They added:

“This phenomenon is unusual; however, due to climate changes, districts in the north of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa… are prone to such incidents of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods”

In a statement made earlier this month, Pakistan Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Mushahidullah Khan, expressed serious concern over the flood threat faced northern areas of Pakistan.

Thousands Cut Off for 7 Days

Relief efforts have been stepped up, but PDMA say that the destruction of road infrastructure is making access to the affected areas difficult. Currently, around 25,000 people are cut off from the rest of Chitral in Kalash Valley, 60,000 in Garam Chashma and 200,000 in Upper Chitral, including Booni, Mastuj, Mulkow, Torkow and Yarkhoon.

PDMA say that the chances of food shortages in these areas cannot be ruled out. Local authorities have mobilized local contractors and deployed earth moving machinery to clear and restore damaged roads.

Chitral flood damage, July 2015, Pakistan. Photo: PDMA
Chitral flood damage, July 2015, Pakistan. Photo: PDMA

Distribution of Food and Relief Items

The Pakistan Army has been drafted in to assist with rescue and relief distribution. In a statement earlier today, they said:

The Pakistan Army continued rescue operations on the 6th consecutive day in the worst flood hit areas of Chitral where Army and Frontier Corps with the help of civil administration distributed 16 tons of ration. Meanwhile troops evacuated more than 73 stranded individuals from Garm Chashma, Koragh and Bomboreet to safer places. Pakistan Army has placed two dedicated MI-17 helicopters in Chitral for the relief and rescue operation.

PDMA transported 20 tonnes (500 Packages) of food items to the district yesterday, with a further 20 tonnes expected to arrive in 2 days. Tents, blankets and other non-food items have already been distributed.

Prime Minister’s Visit Postponed

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of life and property due to floods in Chitral. He intended to visit the flood affected areas in Chitral but the visit was postponed due to bad weather conditions.

In a statement yesterday, the Prime Minister said that he has instructed Pakistan’s National disaster Management Agency (NDMA) to reinforce  relief and rescue efforts in coordination with PDMA and other concerned departments. He also directed the National Highway Authority (NHA) to keep N-45 open so that Chitral remains linked with the national road network.

Further Rain in River Catchment Areas Expected in Next 24 Hours

Pakistan’s Meteorological Department Flood Forecasting Division forecast further rainfall for the area. In their forecast of 22 July 2015, they said:

Fairly wide-spread thunderstorm/rain of moderate in tensity with isolated heavy falls is expected over Sindh.

Scattered thunderstorms/rain of moderate intensity with isolated heavy fall is expected over the Upper Catchments of all the major rivers along with Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Northeast Balochistan.

Rainfall of moderate intensity with isolated heavy falls is also expected over the Hill Torrents of DG Khan division.

River Levels

The Flood Forecasting Division also said that the River Indus is a “Medium Flood Level” at Kalabagh , Chashma and Taunsa and the River Kabul at Nowshera.