‘Left with nothing’: Record floods devastate Pakistan province

Tens of thousands of people are currently at the mercy of an exceptional monsoon season, which has wreaked havoc across Pakistan.

Pakistan floods
Rescue workers help residents evacuate from a flooded area caused by heavy rains, in Balochistan's Lasbela district [File: Hamdan Khan/AP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Naseebullah was having dinner with his four children last week when he heard some noise outside his house. Sensing danger, the 60 year old’s instincts as a former soldier kicked in.

A recent retiree from levies forces in Pakistan’s remote Balochistan province, Naseebullah rushed out of his small mud house in Muslim Bagh town – situated about 100km (62 miles) from Quetta, the provincial capital – only to hear a loud crash and the thunder of water gushing towards him.

“It had been raining non-stop anyway and we could not leave our house. But when I heard the noise of water rushing towards us, I ran inside the house and yelled to my family to stop everything and immediately leave,” he told Al Jazeera by telephone.

While Naseebullah was able to save his family, some of his relatives were not as lucky.

“My brother lived next door and he had some relative’s children also staying with him. As soon as we managed to leave the house, the flood came crashing down and destroyed my house as well as my brother’s, taking him and the people inside away,” he said.

Pakistan floods
A vegetable seller waits for customers at a flooded street in Lahore [File: K M Chaudary/AP]

Roughly 200km (124 miles) from Muslim Bagh town, Haji Abdul Razzaq, a resident of district Killa Abdullah had a similar story to share.

“The females and children in my family are compelled to live under the open sky because I have lost my home and the floodwater still stands there,” Razzaq, 59, told Al Jazeera.

The two men and their families are among tens of thousands of people currently at the mercy of an exceptional monsoon season, which has wreaked havoc across Pakistan.

Pakistan is ranked eighth among counties most vulnerable to climate crises despite contributing less than one percent to global carbon emissions, according to the Climate Change Risk Index 2021.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) says since the beginning of the monsoon season in mid-June this year, more than 650 people have died across the country and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, with no respite from nature on the horizon.

Initial estimates by the NDMA say more than 100 districts have been affected by the torrential rains.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and most impoverished province, has been hit the hardest.

According to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), more than 200 people have died in the province, 58 of them children, and more than 10,000 people were displaced from their homes.

Balochistan authorities say the floods have caused damage to more than 40,000 houses, of which 22,000 were destroyed. Nearly 700,000 acres (280,000 hectares) of crops across the province were lost, with the officials estimating the total loss incurred in the floods so far is $10m.

Interactive_Balochistan_Floods_Aug19_REVISED 2 2022-01
(Al Jazeera)

But the devastation is not limited to Balochistan alone, with almost all of Pakistan facing extraordinary amounts of rain this year. NDMA data till August 17 said the average rainfall this year was 267mm, compared with the 30-year average of 119mm – an increase of 124 percent.

Balochistan’s 30-year average was only 55mm and this year rose dramatically by 289 percent to 200mm of rainfall.

In neighbouring Sindh province, the 30-year average was 107mm but touched 375mm this year. The province has reported more than 140 flood-related deaths, including at least 66 children, this year.

Pakistan floods
A man walks on a flooded road following rains in Karachi [File: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

While displaced people are pleading for relief and sharing videos of their distress on social media, the Balochistan government and rescue authorities insist they are doing their best under the circumstances.

Meer Ziaullah Langau, an adviser to Balochistan’s chief minister, said the provincial government is coordinating with local administrations and providing them with the necessary assistance.

“It is inevitable considering the kind of rains we received that there must be people who haven’t been provided relief, but our teams everywhere performed diligently and we haven’t received any complaints,” he told Al Jazeera.

Another PDMA official, requesting anonymity, said the rains this year were unexpected. He claimed the government took measures such as informing people and preparing for relief efforts.

“Contrary to the MET department’s predictions, the magnitude of rain this year was entirely unexpected. The major reason for loss of life was because of encroachments built on water causeways which were swept away in the rains,” he told Al Jazeera.

Balochistan has also reached out to the federal government, asking for a special package of $27m for repair and rehabilitation in the province.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also tweeted on Wednesday the United States will provide $100,000 as immediate relief to Pakistan on top of a $1m package to “build resilience against natural disasters”.

But for the hundreds of thousands of people left out in the open, help is not coming soon enough. Some 500km (310 miles) south of Quetta, Lasbela is one of the worst affected regions in Balochistan.

Qari Shahnawaz, 55, whose house was partially damaged in the floods, on Friday said it has been raining continuously for the last three days.

“The entire city is drowning and people have nowhere to go. Had the government prepared for this, we would not be having these problems,” he told Al Jazeera by telephone.

“Even right now, I am standing in waist-high water.”

Others also questioned the government’s inaction. Retired teacher Haji Raheem, 74, told Al Jazeera he lost his house and more than 25 acres of agricultural land in the floods.

“The government is just talking big about helping people but I do not see them anywhere here. It is only the charity workers and some political parties helping on their own,” he said.

Killah Abdullah district’s Razzaq says his village consisting of 25 mud houses was destroyed in the floods.

“The authorities provided us with some tents and food parcels, but we don’t have a dry place to put the tents,” he told Al Jazeera. “For a majority of people, our only livelihood in this area is agriculture but the flood has washed away our crops of watermelon and apple.”

Naseebullah of Muslim Bagh claims the government did not give any advance flood warning in his area, adding that the water took away much more than just his house.

“The house was built by our ancestors. They had been living here for more than 100 years. It was not built on any illegal waterway and never in the past did we face such. But now we are left with nothing.”

Additional reporting by Saadullah Akhter from Quetta, Balochistan

Source: Al Jazeera