Pakistan – Almost 1,000 Dead, 33 Million Affected in Worst Floods in a Decade

The catastrophic flooding continues to cause widespread destruction in Pakistan, where 33 million people have now been affected, according to the government. The situation is likely to worsen over the coming days. and warnings have been issued for rising levels of the Indus and Kabul rivers.

Floods in Punjab, Pakistan, August 2022. Photo: Punjab Emergency Service Department

Almost 1,000 Fatalities Reported

The number of people who have died as a result of monsoon rain and flooding in Pakistan since mid-June now stands at 982, including 316 children. The figure represents an increase of almost 300 deaths in the last week. As of 20 August, 692 fatalities were reported.

As of 27 August, 339 people had lost their lives in Sindh Province. Fatalities were also reported in Balochistan (234), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (195), Punjab (167), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (37), Gilgit-Baltistan (9) and Islamabad Capital Territory (1).

33 Million Affected in Worst Humanitarian Disaster This Decade

Wide areas of the country are under water, with devastating impacts reminiscent of the floods in Pakistan in 2010 when at one point one fifth of the total land mass of the country was flooded.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Head of Delegation in Pakistan, Peter Ophoff said, “The devastation seen is giving frightening flashbacks of the devastating mega floods in 2010 which affected 20 million people.”

According to Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Sherry Rehman, the current flooding has already impacted the lives of 33 million people.

“Pakistan is facing the worst humanitarian disaster of this decade and it has led to spectacular losses of lives, property and livelihood,” the minister said. “The amount of water on the ground has inundated huge swathes of Pakistan, with 33 million affected, many stranded.”

Over 60 Districts Declared “Calamity Hit”

Sixty-six districts have been officially declared to be ‘calamity hit’ by the Government of Pakistan – 31 in Balochistan, 23 in Sindh, 9 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and 3 in Punjab.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) the situation remains dynamic, and many more districts have been affected; the number of calamity-declared districts is expected to rise as rains continue to fall.

“Earthquake-like Destruction”

The Pakistan Red Crescent described floods as causing “earthquake-like destruction”. The Chairman of Pakistan Red Crescent, Abrar ul Haq said:

“The situation is worsening by the day. These torrential floods have severely restricted transportation and mobility. The threat of COVID-19 and damage to vehicles, infrastructure and connectivity are further making our emergency relief works almost impossible. Most of those affected are also immobile or marooned making us hard to reach them.

“Pakistan Red Crescent is currently providing relief assistance in 23 of the most affected districts. We have also started mobilizing help from International Committee of the Red Cross, partner National Societies and local and international donors to support in relief and recovery activities. We have also deployed more 500 staff and volunteers to flood-affected districts.

“We fear the worst is yet to come as these kinds of waters could mean the risk of water-borne diseases are looming over the heads of our people.”

Livelihoods Impacted

Livelihoods are also being heavily impacted. According to UNOCHA, more than 793,900 livestock – a critical source of sustenance and livelihoods for many families – have died, of which some 63 per cent are in Balochistan and 25 per cent in Punjab. Around 2 million acres (810,000 hectares) of crops and orchards have also been impacted, including at least 304,000 acres in Balochistan, 178,000 acres in Punjab and some 1.54 million acres in Sindh.

Over 1 Million Tents Needed

National (NDMA) and Provincial (PDMA) disaster management agencies and the Pakistan Army have deployed personnel to provide relief to the affected areas.

“We are mobilizing maximum resources for relief, rescue and shelter operations with the provinces…However we are all painfully aware that there is a distressing gap between resources and rescue operations and the number of people in need of urgent shelter; with 33 million affected we will need international humanitarian assistance to give a modicum of relief and food security for now,” Minister Rehman said.

As many as 226,719 houses have been destroyed and 455,420 damaged or partially destroyed, according to NDMA figures. As of 26 August, 171,891 tents and 154,998 food packs had been distributed to flood-hit areas  by PDMA and NDMA. Blankets, mosquito nets, kitchen, hygiene and water equipment have also been distributed.

“The need for shelter and relief is dire as per what the provinces have conveyed to us. But it is still an evolving situation and every day the needs assessments are changing as the rains don’t stop and the water keeps coming. The homeless numbers are growing, with Sindh asking for one million tents and Balochistan 100,000,” Minister Rehman added.

Houses damaged by floods by district in Pakistan, as of 26 August 2022. Image: UNOCHA

“Monster Monsoon Cycles”

Some provinces in the country have seen a deviation from average August rainfall by between 200 and almost 800 percent. Minister Rehman said the extreme high levels of rain was a result of “monster monsoon cycles”.

“Pakistan is going through its 8th cycle of monsoon while normally the country has only 3 to 4 cycles of rain. The percentages of super flood torrents pare shocking. Sindh has received 784% more rainfall than average for the month of August while Balochistan has received 496% more rain than normal,” the minster said.

Padidan, a town in Sindh province has recorded 1,187 mm of rain so far this month. The previous highest total for an August month is 300 mm, recorded in 1992.

Rainfall in Pakistan Monsoon 2022. Image: PMD
Rainfall in Pakistan Monsoon 2022. Image: PMD

55,000 km2 Under Water

Images provided by the United Nations Satellite Centre (UNOSAT) on 26 August reveal that as much as 55,000 km2 of land – mostly areas of Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh Provinces – is currently flooded.

“This map illustrates cumulative satellite-detected water using VIIRS in Pakistan between 03 to 23 August 2022. Within the cloud free analysed areas of about 780,000 km2, a total of about 55,000 km2 of lands appear to be affected with flood waters,” UNOSAT said.

Satellite image of floods in Pakistan, 26 August 2022. Image: UNITAR UNOSAT

River Warnings

As of 26 August, NDMA reported the Indus was at High Flood Level (4th of 5 reporting levels: Normal, Low Flood, Medium Flood, High Flood, Very High Flood) at Guddu (Sindh), Sukkur (Sindh) and Taunsa (Punjab).

The Kabul River was at High Flood Level at Nowshera (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) but was expected to rise to Very High or above over the next 48 hours, NDMA said.

The Indus at Kalabagh and Chashma in Punjab Province is likely to reach High to Very High Flood level during next 24 to 48 hours.