The worst monsoon rains in 100 years

It's being described as the worst flooding in living memory, but the monsoon season is just beginning.

    It's being described as the worst monsoon in living memory, and for good reason. I myself was ready to evacuate my family, even though we live in the relative safety of the capital.

    Some of our neighbours saw dry river beds come to life and flow like major rivers right next door. I saw cars and belongings being washed away.

    Not far away, rescue workers frantically tried to crawl through the thick Acacia trees to reach a steep slope where a passenger airliner had slammed right into a mountainside as it tried to circle before landing at Islamabad International Airport. Even though the tragedy was still fresh and the smoke still billowing out from the wreckage, another calamity was about to strike as the rain let loose a trail of destruction.

    I remember sending an urgent message to the news desk that the rain was wreaking havoc, as small streams became raging rivers.

    Northwest inundation

    If the situation in Islamabad looked grim, all hell was breaking loose in the North West Frontier province. Frantic telephone calls were tantamount to mayday signals, an SOS of "save our souls".

    Hundreds of people were running for high ground as the ferocious and swollen river was about to send a massive wall of water washing away large trucks and buses like matchbox toys. And as that wall of water passed through narrow gorges - areas known for their riverside hotels and markets - the flooding levels rose, leaving behind nothing but the twisted remains of steel and concrete.

    The Pakistan Met office said that a 100-year-old record was broken as some parts of the frontier received over 300mm of rain.  The trail of destruction, spread over a large area, has destroyed vital bridges, turning some mountain havens into virtual islands. 

    Because of massive deforestation by the timber mafias, the situation has become an ecological disaster. It is difficult to calculate what the real cost of all this will be, but at the moment, dead bodies are still stuck to trees while others have been swept away.  

    Billions in damage

    Besides the human cost, the infrastructural damage is expected to be in the billions. The main road link on both the Grand Trunk road (that famous road that once ran from Kabul to Calcutta) and the motorway is cutoff as vital bridges have been swept away. Segments of the roads are now inundated with water. The scale of damage is going to be a real source of worry for a new civilian government already hard-pressed by growing unpopularity and riddled with scandals. 

    Unfortunately the worst may not yet be over as the Met office expects more monsoon rains, which will further complicate the rescue and recovery process, and may even threaten large scale destruction across the country. 

    Already swollen rivers are carrying huge amounts of water south and they will put a severe strain on the barrages and canals of the fertile Punjab province, as well as further down in Sindh. With Baluchistan and the NWFP already catastrophe stricken, it would mean that the whole of Pakistan would have to be ready for a National Emergency. 

    What people need now is to organise and see what they can do on their own, in case help does not arrive on time. What we are seeing is just the beginning of the monsoon season, and no one knows what the new clouds from the South West Monsoon will bring with them.


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