Torrential monsoon rains have hit Pakistan's Punjab province, causing the area's five rivers to spill over their banks, flooding over a thousand villages (in Punjab, Azad Jammu, and Kashmir). The death toll in Pakistan alone is reported to be more than 240 people. Hundreds of thousands of people are affected, as the floods have forced thousands from their homes. For a country already in a domestic political crisis, Pakistan faces a truly awesome disaster in the new flooding.
The overflowing Chenab and Jehlum rivers have caused the most damage. Waters spilled over both banks of the Jammu in Kashmir, flooding both Pakistan and India, after heavy rainfall began on September 2. Flash floods and landslides soon hit the Chenab and Jhelum rivers, first affecting India and then moving downstream to areas in Pakistan.
This year's flood is said to be the worst in the past five decades. Indeed, most eyewitnesses say they have never encountered a catastrophe on this scale. When the waters subside, the combined death toll in India and Pakistan could be extraordinary high.
Pakistan's NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) has declared the Gujranwala divisions in the Punjab province, as well as the Haveli districts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, to be the worst affected.
Already swimming in political turmoil, the Pakistani government was quick to begin rescue efforts for those displaced and stranded in Kashmir, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and in Punjab. Ordinary Pakistani citizens are at the forefront of relief efforts, donating and organizing aid through several charities.
Bloggers, Twitter users, and citizen journalists in Pakistan have used the hashtag #PakistanFloods to call for help, promote the need for donations and rescue workers, and also to report news from the scene of the disaster.
Faizan Lakhani, a journalist from Karachi, has tweeted images of the floods’ devastation:
— Faizan Lakhani (@faizanlakhani) September 7, 2014
Earlier this week, Javed Malik, the prime minister's special envoy, announced he will soon launch a campaign to aid flood victims:
— Javed Malik (@JavedMalik) September 5, 2014
The danger in many areas hasn't yet subsided. Andrew North, the BBC's South Asia Correspondent, has raised alarm bells about the rising water levels in River Jehlum:
— Andrew North (@NorthAndrew) September 8, 2014
This Facebook video capture the devastation of flooding in Sialkot.
Night War, a Pakistani Twitter user, posted the following pictures of half-submerged buildings in Wazirabad, one of the hardest-hit areas in Pakistan:
— Night War (@battlehawk_) September 8, 2014
Ahmed, another citizen journalist, claims that the current crisis is the result of “criminal negligence” more than any natural disaster:
Faisal Kapadia, a Global Voices author from Pakistan, has worried on Twitter that the situation could become worse. Indeed, floodwaters continue to make their way downstream, toward Jhang and the Sindh province.
The coming monsoon rains.. seem like a tough period for us here in Pakistan…shudder to think what can happen
— FK (@faisalkapadia) September 6, 2014
Also on Twitter, Fatima Ali says rescue efforts are finding some success.
— Fatima Ali (@FatimaAli52) September 9, 2014
Reporting on the floods, it is important to consider Pakistan's current political turmoil. The legitimacy of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in particular, faces serious questions. Recently, in fact, protesters charged his motorcade, causing a scene in front of cameras.
— Mujtaba Sharf (@MujtabaSharf) September 7, 2014
The government has taken criticism for its response, but citizen-led efforts remain popular. Engineering student Jihane Akharraz, for instance, welcomes the humanitarian efforts by ordinary people in affected areas:
— || JihaneAk (@JihaneeAk) September 7, 2014
The provincial government of Punjab, in Pakistan, and the local PDMA office have launched an online “Flood Relief Dashboard” to monitor relief efforts, as well as share high-resolution, real-time satellite images of the region's flooded areas. Authorities have also established a control room with dedicated phone lines to coordinate rescue and relief operations.
This is a developing story and downstream floods continue to cause further destruction and devastation in Pakistan.