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Children carrying household items wade through a flooded area after a monsoon rainfall in Quetta on July 5, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad:   At least 77 people have died and hundreds have been affected by heavy monsoon rains that have lashed Pakistan in recent weeks, causing severe flooding and landslides.

The worst-hit region is the southwestern province of Balochistan, where heavy rainfall and flooding have claimed 39 lives since June 14 in monsoon rains, Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said on Wednesday.

“This is definitely a national tragedy,” Rehman told reporters.

“When so many people are losing their lives. It’s not a minor thing and the state must be prepared to respond” to such tragedies. She said that pre-monsoon rains came in earlier than expected this year. The

Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has forecasted July 1 to mid-August as the first phase of the monsoons with 87 per cent precipitation already above normal, she said. Much of the rainfall is expected in the southern part of the country.

“This is the beginning and we need to prepare for it,” she said, adding that the climate change ministry had issued alerts to the nationals and provincial disaster management authorities to stay alert to deal with an emergency situation.

Rehman said that people need to be careful as the monsoon patterns are altering. At this moment, the rains recorded across Pakistan during July 1-6 are 87 per cent more than the average downpour.”

Balochistan received 274 per cent more rainfall than the average while downpour in Sindh was recorded at 261 per cent higher than the average, which the minister stressed was “alarming”. The rainfall rate increase in AJK was 49 per cent while Gilgit-Baltistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa received less than average rainfall in July.

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Residents clear debri in Quetta. Image Credit: AFP

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority has imposed an emergency in Quetta, local media reported.

Owing to heavy monsoon rainfall, a notification issued by PDMA Balochistan announced the emergency in Quetta district.

Relief operations in the affected area were launched by the Quetta district administration and rescue teams. As per PDMA officials, over 50 mud houses collapsed in Sariab Mills area, Eastern Bypass, and other areas on the outskirts.

Two women were killed in Dasht area in Mastung district when a wall of their house collapsed. Several other Balochistan areas including Turbat, Panjgur, Pasni, Ormara and Makran division also received heavy monsoon rains. However, no major loss of life was reported from these areas so far.

In Gwadar, army troops were helping the local administration to drain the water accumulated in several areas. According to the Met office, northern and central parts of Balochistan will receive more heavy rains with thunderstorms, reports said.

Heavy downpour also caused flash-flooding and inundated several low-lying areas.

The pre-monsoon that started in June led to at least 16 glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) recorded incidents this season due to extreme heatwaves, the minister said. Torrential rains also triggered landslides in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, blocking a major road that connects Gilgit and Skardu. The Jaglot-Skardu road serves as a major link between Karakoram Highway and Skardu city, the country’s most popular tourist site.

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Livestock vendors sit next to their camels at a cattle market during a rain shower ahead of the upcoming Eid Al Adha in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on July 6, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

The last three days of massive downpours have left at least 17 people dead, damaged dozens of homes and disrupted travel across southwest Pakistan. Streets and homes were flooded in several parts of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, where an emergency was also declared on Tuesday after dozens were reportedly killed, the provincial disaster management agency said. The Met Office predicted more rains in the next 48 hours.

President Dr Arif Alvi expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives and properties due to heavy rains in Quetta. He directed the authorities concerned to extend every possible assistance to the people affected by the calamity.

The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September, is essential for irrigating crops and replenishing lakes and dams across the Indian subcontinent, but each year also brings a wave of destruction.

Poorly built homes across Pakistan - particularly in rural areas - are prone to collapse in floods, which also destroy huge tracts of prime farmland.

The worst floods of recent times were in 2010 - covering almost a fifth of the country’s landmass - killing nearly 2,000 people and displacing 20 million.

Pakistan is the eighth most vulnerable country to extreme weather caused by climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index compiled by environmental NGO Germanwatch.

“One day you have drought and next morning you are expecting flash flood... so you can see how serious the situation is in Pakistan”, Rehman said.  -- With inputs from Agencies