Five more deaths in Balochistan take Pakistan's monsoon toll to 640

Childern wade across at a flood affected town in southwestern province of Balochistan, Pakistan on August 2, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 17 August 2022

Five more deaths in Balochistan take Pakistan's monsoon toll to 640

  • Torrential rains, floods have claimed over 200 lives in Balochistan since mid-June
  • Railway authorities in Quetta have suspended train service to other provinces

QUETTA: A senior official in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province said on Wednesday three women and two children were killed after their vehicle was swept away in flood near Pishin district, taking the national death toll to 640 since the beginning of the monsoon season in mid-June.

Pakistan’s Meteorological Department warned last week that torrential rains were going to lash the country's southern region, saying they would continue until August 18.

So far, 201 residents of Balochistan have lost their lives in rains and floods since the beginning of the monsoon season in mid-June.

Speaking to Arab News, the deputy commissioner of Pishin, Zafar Ali, confirmed that a vehicle carrying women and children attempted to cross flood water while moving from Quetta to Killa Abdullah district when the accident took place.

“Locals told the driver to take another route since flood water was moving through the area, but he accelerated his vehicle which was swept away,” he said. “Three women and two children were killed in the incident.”

Ali informed that security forces had recovered the bodies from Mirani area of district Pishin, adding they had been handed over to the bereaved family.

Official statistics gathered by the provincial authorities reveal that more than 40,000 houses have been damaged in recent floods in Balochistan that have also affected 400,000 acres of agricultural land.

The situation has also made it difficult for the residents of the province to travel to other areas since train services to Sindh and Punjab have been suspended by the authorities.

“The district administration in Sibi has set an embankment to stop the flow of water toward the city,” Muhammad Kashif, a railway official, told Arab News. “Until water is drained out from the area, it will be difficult to resume train service since the tracks are completely covered with water.”

He informed the railway authorities were helping passengers travel to nearby towns by hiring buses, adding these people would then catch a train to their respective destinations.

Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to form a committee, chaired by the climate change minister, which would give its recommendations on launching projects to mitigate the impact of harsh weather conditions on the lives of people.

Pakistan is among the top eight countries most affected by climate change, though its share in the world carbon emissions is nearly one percent.

The flood forecasting division of the Pakistan Meteorological Department issued an alert on Tuesday, saying India had released 171,797 cusecs water which was likely to flood rivers in Pakistan.

Southern Pakistani province plans to move thousands of flood-hit people to ‘tent city’

Updated 46 min 7 sec ago

Southern Pakistani province plans to move thousands of flood-hit people to ‘tent city’

  • The tent city in Karachi’s Malir district includes 1,300 tarpaulin camps to house flood-affected people currently staying at Karachi schools
  • Floods have inundated around 15,000 schools Sindh, while education activities remain suspended at another 5,000 facilities housing affectees

KARACHI: Authorities in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province on Monday said they were moving thousands of people displaced by catastrophic floods to a “tent city” on the outskirts of the port city of Karachi.

Torrential rains and floods have killed more than 1,600 people and affected 33 million across Pakistan since the beginning of monsoon season in mid-June. The deluges have forced 1.45 million people out of homes in the southern Sindh province, washing away most of their crops.

The provincial government has accommodated these displaced people in 5,000 government-run schools across the province, with 30 schools housing the affectees in Karachi.

Local authorities have decided to move these thousands of affectees from government-run schools in Karachi’s East district to hundreds of tarpaulin camps in the Malir district on the outskirts of the megapolis.

“About 7,000 people living in our relief camps would be shifted and the schools will be vacated,” said Raja Tariq Chandio, deputy commissioner of the East district, where most of the schools sheltering displaced people are situated.

Irfan Salam, deputy commissioner of the Malir district, said authorities had erected 1,300 shelters along the Malir link road, while K-Electric, the city’s sole power distributor, was also laying a power transmission line to supply electricity to these camps.

“In the tent city, flood victims will have safe drinking water and cooked meals. It has 20 washrooms and a hospital with men and women doctors and paramedics,” Salam told Arab News.

“It will take at least 10 days for K-Electric to set up the power transmission line, but we will start providing electricity through generators as we plan to move flood victims within the next two days.”

He said a charity had committed to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for the displaced people, for which a kitchen was being set up.

The Sindh education foundation would also set up a school to impart education to children of these flood-affected people, Salam added.

The deadly floods have inundated around 15,000 schools across the southern Pakistani province, while education activities remain suspended at another 5,000 institutes housing the affected masses.

Around 2.5 million students enrolled at these 20,000 schools may drop out this year as the province lacks resources to make educational facilities functional soon after floodwater recedes from marooned areas, according to Sindh Education Minister Sardar Ali Shah.

After the relocation of affected masses to the Malir district, officials say classes will resume at 30 government-run facilities housing them in Karachi’s East district.

Javed Shah, a teacher at the Government Boys Primary School in the district, told Arab News the local administration had communicated to them that the schools would be vacated this week, but it would take another few days to make arrangements for resumption of classes.

“We are happy that classes are going to resume soon,” Shah told Arab News. “We will bring the schools to order to resume classes.”

Dubai's DP World announces $2.5 million in flood assistance to Pakistan

Updated 26 September 2022

Dubai's DP World announces $2.5 million in flood assistance to Pakistan

  • The logistics firm's chief announced last week he planned to set up industrial parks in Pakistan
  • Sheikh Sultan bin Sulayem said Pakistan had a huge investment potential and human resource

ISLAMABAD: DP World, one of the world’s largest logistics and port terminal operators headquartered in Dubai, has announced donating $2.5 million to Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy said on Sunday, after massive floods caused widespread death and destruction in the South Asian country. 

Cataclysmic floods have killed at least 1,638 people, displaced more than 33 million and inundated a third of Pakistan since the onset of monsoon season in mid-June. 

The deluges have damaged millions of homes, swept away livestock and standing crops, causing an estimated loss of $3 billion to the South Asian country, already grappling with an economic crisis. 

The announcement of $2.5 million donation came after DP World Chairman Sheikh Sultan bin Sulayem's meetings with Pakistan President Arif Alvi and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. 

"DP World supports the relief efforts in the aftermath of floods and torrential rains that hit large parts of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and announces to donate $2.5 million dollars to the Pakistan Army's Flood Relief account," the UAE embassy in Islamabad said on Twitter. 

The DP World chairman arrived in Pakistan on Friday to assess the scale of the disaster, which officials have blamed on human-driven climate change. 

Sheikh Sultan said he was interested in setting up industrial parks in Pakistan, which had a huge investment potential and availability of human resource.  

“The vision I have is to open industrial parks in Pakistan which will be equipped with modern infrastructure,” he said at a press conference in Karachi on Friday.  

"Human resource is no problem in Pakistan as the country has many highly educated engineers, who will work in these industrial parks."  

The Dubai-based logistics firm already operates a container terminal at the Karachi port. 

Pakistan and the UAE have close fraternal relations and bilateral cooperation in a range of fields. The UAE is also Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and home to more than 1.6 million Pakistanis.   

Pakistan floods raise fears of hunger after crops wrecked 

Updated 26 September 2022

Pakistan floods raise fears of hunger after crops wrecked 

  • Pakistan’s agricultural sector had been growing in recent years, allowing country to export some wheat and rice 
  • Cotton losses could hurt biggest export, textiles and clothes, which brought in more than $20 billion annually 

KHAIRPUR: Like every year, Arz Mohammed had planted his little patch of land in southern Pakistan with cotton. The crop would earn him enough so that, as he puts it, his family of five wouldn’t be reduced to begging. Then came the deluge. 

Pakistan’s massive floods this summer collapsed Mohammed’s home and destroyed his four acres of cotton, wiping out most of his income. 

On top of that, his land and that of his neighbors remain underwater, three months after the heaviest rains stopped. Like many farmers across southern Pakistan, he may not be able to plant his next crop — wheat — in time. 

That could spell trouble for the country’s food supply. 

“These rains have destroyed everything for us,” said Mohammed, who lives in a tent with his wife and children near his wrecked house in Khairpur, one of the country’s hardest-hit districts. “We don’t even have anything to eat.” 

This summer’s flooding, caused by monsoon rains nearly triple the usual ferocity, wiped out huge swaths of crops, leaving already impoverished families struggling to obtain food. Farmers and officials warn that Pakistan could now face serious food shortages at a time when the government is strapped for cash and world food prices are high. 

Farmers collect apples from remaining floodwaters due to heavy monsoon rains, at an orchard in Hanna Urak near Quetta, Pakistan, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. (AP)

Nearly 15 percent of Pakistan’s rice crop and 40 percent of its cotton crop were lost, according to officials. The waters also wiped out the personal grain stores that many farming families rely on for food yearlong. 

The flooding, blamed in part on climate change, killed nearly 1,600 people, damaged nearly 2 million homes and overall wreaked damage estimated at more than $30 billion. 

At the United Nations last week, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif told The Associated Press that crops on 4 million acres were washed away. “We need funds to provide livelihood to our people. We need funds to compensate for the loss of crops to our people, to our farmers.” 

The government says there is no immediate worry about food supplies. In a statement to the AP, the state disaster agency said wheat stock are enough to last through the next harvest and that the government is importing more. 

A farmer collects apples beside damaged trees caused floodwaters due heavy monsoon rains, at an orchard in Hanna Urak near Quetta, Pakistan, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. (AP)

However, the upcoming wheat crop has been thrown into uncertainty. Planting usually starts in October. In Punjab province, the country’s main wheat producer, fields suffered less damage and can be sown in time. But in southern Sindh province, the second largest producer, some 50 percent of the fields remain underwater, according to Jam Khan Shoro, a provincial irrigation minister in Sindh. 

Aerial footage in Sindh shows field after field still inundated. The province, in Pakistan’s southern lowlands at the downstream end of its major rivers, is where the floods hit hardest: 80 percent of the rice crop and 70 percent of cotton were destroyed, devastating the livelihoods of the small farmers who make up most the production. 

Altaf Hussain Marri, a larger and relatively well-off landholder in Khairpur, said he normally gives away wheat as a gift to friends and family. Now he’s worried about having enough for himself and his children, unsure if his 400 inundated acres will drain in time. The floods demolished his cotton and rice crops, worth around $40,000. 

“If we fail to grow wheat ... next year we might not have even wheat to eat,” Marri said. “It will create food insecurity in the country. The poor will suffer a lot. There will be no flour.” 

Pakistan’s agricultural sector had been growing in recent years, allowing the country to export some wheat and rice. 

Villagers works in flooded rice field caused by heavy monsoon rains, in Dera Allahyar area of Jaffarabad, a district of southwestern Baluchistan province, Pakistan, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. (AP)

“Now we will have to import wheat and other food items,” Pakistan’s Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal told the AP. 

Sharif, the prime minister, said Pakistan may have to import about a million metric tons of wheat, and it could come from Russia, but Pakistan is open to other offers if the price is right. 

Pakistan has already put out orders to import 500,000 metric tons of wheat, Planning Ministry officials say. There are contingency plans to buy as much 2.5 million tons over the next year, but officials are waiting to see how much wheat is planted, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the policy was not yet set. 

Ashfaq Ahmad, a senior economist, said the additional wheat needs to be brought in quickly, by next month. 

Otherwise, “I am seeing a food crisis in December,” he told the AP. “Any delay in the import of wheat will cause food shortage.” 

The flooding was also a blow to Pakistan’s important cash crops. Losses will mean lower exports of rice, which earned $2 billion in 2020. Cotton losses could hurt the country’s biggest export, textiles and clothes, which brought in more than $20 billion annually in recent years. 

But the greater damage and danger is likely to Pakistan’s poor, with no margin to endure losses in income and food. 

In Dasht, a remote district of Baluchistan province, hundreds of orchard owners worry about their future after losing crops of grapes, apples and other fruits. In parts of Baluchistan, piles upon piles of rotten apples can be seen in submerged areas. 

Even before the floods, some 38 million Pakistanis, more than 16 percent of the population, were living in moderate or severe food insecurity, meaning they were uncertain about being able to obtain food or at times have outright gone without eating, according to the World Health Organization. Nearly 18 percent of children were acutely malnourished. 

The blow to the food supply and incomes will tip those populations deeper into hunger, UN agencies have warned. The UN’s World Food Program has so far delivered food to 600,000 flood survivors. 

Iqbal, the planning minister, said Sindh province is the country’s biggest producer of vegetables for domestic markets. Those crops were lost, along with families’ personal stores of grains for themselves and feed for their livestock. 

“So, therefore we have a real food security challenge at hand,” he said. 

On the ground in Sukkur, another hard-hit district neighboring Khairpur, the local agricultural director Rasool Bux Junejo fears the worst. Farmers won’t be able to grow wheat or other key crops like sunflowers and mustard. 

“That will be a huge loss in the coming months. If you ask me as an agriculture worker, I foresee famine, God forbid,” he said. “We will be unable to provide food to our people.” 

Six Pakistani servicemen killed in second chopper crash in over a month

Updated 8 min 27 sec ago

Six Pakistani servicemen killed in second chopper crash in over a month

  • Helicopter went down near Khost, a small town in Balochistan bordering Afghanistan, Iran 
  • The deceased servicemen included two army majors, both pilots, the Pakistani military says 

ISLAMABAD: Six Pakistan servicemen were killed in a helicopter crash in southwestern Pakistan, the military said Monday, the second deadly chopper incident in just over a month. 

The helicopter went down near Khost, a small town in Balochistan province bordering Afghanistan and Iran. 

“A helicopter on a flying mission crashed late last night. Six personnel — including two army majors (both pilots) embraced shahadat(martyrdom) in the crash,” the military said in a statement. 

No further details were given about the cause of the crash or type of aircraft. The area where the helicopter came down has not been hit by recent flooding. 

In early August, six Pakistan servicemen including one of the army’s top commanders were killed when their helicopter crashed during flood relief operations in Balochistan. 

Fierce monsoon rains have caused devastating flooding in Pakistan this year — particularly in Sindh and Balochistan provinces. 

More than 1,600 people have died, 323 in Balochistan. 

Pakistan finance minister resigns to hand over responsibility to fellow financial wizard

Updated 26 September 2022

Pakistan finance minister resigns to hand over responsibility to fellow financial wizard

  • Miftah Ismail’s resignation comes as Pakistan grapples with a plethora of economic woes
  • The crisis is exacerbated by deadly floods that have cost Pakistan an estimated $30 billion

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Sunday said he would formally resign from the role, after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif decided to task his party’s financial wizard Ishaq Dar with the responsibility.

The announcement by Ismail comes at a time when Pakistan is grappling with a widening current account deficit, currency depreciation and a 47-year high inflation that hit 27.3 percent in August.

The economic crisis is exacerbated by deadly floods that have killed more than 1,600 people and affected 33 million others, with officials estimating nationwide losses at $30 billion.

Ismail said he “verbally resigned” from the post in a meeting with PM Sharif and his elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, three-time former prime minister, in London.

“I have verbally resigned as Finance Minister,” the Pakistani finance minister said on Twitter Sunday night.

“I will tender a formal resignation upon reaching Pakistan. It’s been an honor to serve twice as Finance Minister.”

Ismail and PM Sharif are expected to return to Pakistan early this week.

Dar, a finance minister in Nawaz’s cabinet and an influential figure in his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, has been in exile for five years.

He had left the country for the United Kingdom to seek medical treatment after the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz in October 2017 for not declaring a small source of income. The court had ordered an investigation into Sharif, his children and Dar, who is also Nawaz’s former accountant.

Dar himself was disqualified from office by the Supreme Court in 2017. Months after leaving for London, Dar was charged in absentia by an anti-corruption court in Pakistan for amassing wealth beyond known sources of income.

The former finance tzar says the case against him was politically motivated.

Ismail is the fifth finance minister to be replaced in less than four years amid years of political and economic turbulence in the South Asian country.

The devastating floods that hit late last month have fanned fears that Pakistan would not meet its debts.

On Friday, Ismail reassured investors that the South Asian country would not seek any relief from commercial banks or Eurobond creditors, after PM Sharif requested wealthy countries for a “substantial debt relief.”