People salvage usable items from their house, after the roof collapsed due to heavy rains, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Thursday, July 28, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Balochistan government has declared a rain emergency as the death toll from weeks of monsoon rains and flash flooding reached 111 in Pakistan’s largest province.

Several hundred people are stuck in villages and far-off areas cut off by the floods and their houses under water. The floods have washed away roads and bridges. Farmers watched on helplessly as their cattle swept away and crops were destroyed.

Stuck in flood waters

Heartbreaking videos from the worst-affected Lasbela district showed people trapped on trees and rooftops and requesting urgent assistance. In one of the videos shared on Twitter on July 27, a father pleaded with the government to save his kids. “This is the third day of flooding and we have received no help. Our kids are dying of hunger. We have already lost one child. Please get our kids out.” The video is believed to be recorded near RCD highway in Lasbela.

Other flood-affected areas of Balochistan include Dera Bugti, Suhbatpur, Naseerabad and Khuzdar. At least 357 people died and 408 were injured across Pakistan since June 14 monsoon season. More than 100 people lost their lives in Balochistan, 90 in Sindh, 69 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 76 in Punjab and 8 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Rescue and relief efforts

Rescue operations continued throughout the day. On Thursday, Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps (FC) troops assisted the civil administration with relief efforts as rains continued. The heavy downpour has swept away roads and bridges, making rescue operations difficult.

“Two army aviation helicopters have been flown from Karachi to Othal, Lasbella areas” after 48 hours due to bad weather conditions, said ISPR, the army’s media wing. “The helicopters will now shift stranded people to safer places and also transport necessary relief items.”

“More than 700 families trapped during floods in Bolan, Lasbela, Othal and Jhal Magsi and Ghizer were shifted to safe places.” The military response teams have been dewatering, supplying basic food necessities and medical care to flood-affected people. Doctors and paramedics were also providing medical care to affected people.

Government announces funds for flood victims

On Thursday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced that the federal government would increase the monetary compensation for the injured from Rs50,000 to Rs200,000. He said that the compensation for partially damaged houses should be increased from Rs25,000 to Rs250,000 and from Rs50,000 to Rs500,000 for fully damaged houses. PM Sharif has formed a committee to assess the damage caused by floods across the country within the next four days to submit recommendations for short, medium and long-term plans by August 4.

Farah Azeem Shah, the Balochistan government spokesperson, said more than Rs92.4 million rupees had been released for those who had lost their family members during the recent monsoon season.

Provincial government’s slow response criticised

Pakistanis on social media criticised the government’s slow flood response and poor management which led to the loss of lives.

Quetta-based journalist Syed Ali Shah said that the authorities failed to launch timely efforts to rescue people in Lasbela and Magsi districts. “Neither the chief minister nor any provincial minister has visited the floods that affected the people of Lasbela and Magsi” Shah said.

Local activists have set up fundraisers to deliver food to affected people. A youth-led non-profit based in Lasbela Welfare Association for New Generation (WANG) launched an emergency fundraiser to meet food, water and shelter needs in Balochistan. “Lasbela is experiencing its worst floods in history, with thousands of people in search of rescue and help. We fear we will lose hundreds of people if immediate action is not taken” says Qaisar Roonjha, a social activist and resident of Lasbela. The primary road connecting Lasbela to the rest of the country has been swept away at eight separate spots, stranding hundreds of people, he added.

Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has predicted that monsoon currents are likely to intensify in upper and central parts of the country from July 27 to 31.