Govt, army express resolve to fight floods together

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Federal Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, along with representatives of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Pakistan Army on Saturday briefed the nation about the ongoing rescue and relief efforts underway across the country in the face of catastrophic floods as Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar expressed resolve to deploy all available resources to rehabilitate victims.

“Our people’s trust is Pakistan Army’s biggest asset,” he said in a press conference at the National Flood Response Coordination Centre (NFRCC) in Islamabad. Pakistan is reeling from one of the worst floods in decades with more than a third of the country submerged.

Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in northern mountains brought floods that have killed at least 1,265 people since June 14, with 57 casualties reported during the last 24 hours, according to the NDMA. At a press briefing on Saturday on the damages and ongoing relief efforts, Gen Iftikhar assured the nation that the Pakistan Army, continuing its tradition, would stand with the people in this difficult time.

“We are utilising all our resources to rehabilitate people in the flood-affected areas,” he said. The DG ISPR pointed out that the Pakistan Army has established flood relief and coordination centres in all the rain-hit areas where troops from all the formations — army, navy and airforce — are deployed.

Across the country, he elaborated, more than 136 helicopter sorties have been sent, while over 150 medical and relief camps have been established in which free medical treatment and food are being given to the victims. “We have also distributed tents and rations in huge quantities,” he said, adding that thousands of people stranded in several areas had been rescued.

Gen Iftikhar said that the Pakistan Army has established a relief fund for the flood affectees and urged people to donate to their suffering brothers. Separately, all general officers of the army have donated a month’s salary to it too, he said.

The DG ISPR also stated that in solidarity with the flood victims, the army had decided to postpone its Defence Day ceremony at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

He further paid tribute to the martyrs of the Lasbela helicopter crash, saying that “it is because of them that we are breathing freely today”. Meanwhile, Ahsan Iqbal said that the government had begun the reconstruction of roads, highways and electric feeders that had been washed away in the floods.

“Two weeks back, 14 vital connectivity roads in Balochistan — on which the economy relies for its goods transport to and from other countries — were cut off,” he highlighted. “Today, 11 of those have been restored. At this moment only 3 important highways are blocked on which work is underway.” The minister continued that out of 81 grid stations, that were flooded across the country, 69 had been restored. Similarly, 758 out of 881 damaged feeders had been restored.

A majority of transmission lines in Balochistan had also been made functional again. “Around 3,500 telecommunication towers in Sindh and Balochistan were disrupted during floods […] All of these except 600 towers have been restored. “The prime minister has instructed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to fix the remaining ones within the next 48 hours,” Iqbal said.

However, the minister contended that “looking at the scale of the disaster, it is impossible for the government to deal with this alone” and urged the nation to work as a team to rehabilitate the victims. “We need to get out of this difficult situation together. We need to start a new movement for the people who have lost their houses so that Pakistan is not a vision of poverty. “It is also a lesson for us that we need to leave these rivers alone and let them flow freely,” he added.

Meanwhile, during the briefing, NDMA chairman Lt Gen Akhtar Nawaz said that Pakistan had seen the worst form of climate change this year from forest fires to catastrophic floods. He said that the monsoon season in the country this year arrived nearly 2 to 3.5 months early. “According to Met office, this year 20 to 22pc above normal rainfall was affected but instead, we saw over 190pc cumulative rain in Pakistan.”

The highest downpour was recorded in the eastern areas of Balochistan and Sindh, hence, resulting in massive damages. Gen Nawaz said that apart from rain, several glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) events were also reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Talking about the scale of destruction, the NDMA chief stated that over 1,200 people had died in the floods, mostly children, while hundreds had been left injured. “Over 5,000km of roads, 200 bridges, 1.4 million houses and 700,000 livestock have been washed away.” He went on that in the first phase of rescue and relief efforts, the authority had reached out to tent manufacturers in the country to pace up the supply of tents, which were in high demand.