‘It was too late’: Monsoon rains wreak havoc in remote Pakistan

Dozens of neighborhoods submerged by the rains, killing at least 437 people since mid-June and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.

Quetta, Pakistan – Naimatullah was sleeping with his family members when floods entered their mud house in Gandawa, a small town in Jhal Magsi district in Pakistan’s remote southwest province of Balochistan.

Large parts of the South Asian nation, home to 220 million people, have been hit by flash floods and landslides caused by heavy monsoon rains, inundating homes, bridges and roads.

“In the morning, we started looking for our livestock and other necessary goods, but it was too late. Suddenly our house collapsed before my eyes due to heavy rain and flooding in my village,” Naimatullah told Al Jazeera.

Naimatullah stands in front of his collapsed house in Gandawa, Jhal Magsi district, Balochistan [Saadullah Akhter/Al Jazeera]

Jhal Magsi, 345 km (214 miles) from Balochistan’s capital Quetta, is among dozens of Pakistani districts that have been swamped by rains, killing at least 437 people since mid-June and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people, officials said.

“Most people in Gandawa and nearby villages are farmers. Our agricultural lands have been destroyed and rice and wheat crops damaged which will increase our economic hardship in the future,” Naimatullah told Al Jazeera.

Floods this year have killed 136 people and destroyed more than 4,000 homes in the worst-hit province of Balochistan alone, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said on Sunday.

Floods in Pakistan

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited some flooded areas of the impoverished province on Saturday and is also visiting other districts on Monday.

Sharif pledged government assistance to those affected by the floods and announced the formation of four federal committees to assess the damage.

“The rains have not only affected Balochistan, but the whole country and governments are fully engaged with all available resources to rescue people and bring relief,” Sharif said during his visit on Saturday.

Floods in Pakistan
A woman and her children in front of their damaged house in Killi Almas, on the outskirts of Quetta [Saadullah Akhter/Al Jazeera]

Lasbela district, about 480 km (298 miles) south of Quetta, is Pakistan’s worst-hit district.

“We were helpless for three days, but rescue teams with boats finally arrived in our village. There are still many people trapped and living on roofs and trees,” said Muhammad Umar, a resident of Lakhra village in the district.

Khalil Roonjha, a social activist in Lasbela, said hundreds of people are trapped in knee-deep water and are seeking government help.

“There are no accessible roads to the villages drowned by the floods. People urgently need help. The government should send air assistance,” he told Al Jazeera.

Floods in Pakistan
Women stand in front of their collapsed homes in Killi Almas, on the outskirts of Quetta [Saadullah Akhter/Al Jazeera]

Experts say the climate crisis has made monsoon rains more intense, causing widespread flooding and havoc.

Pakistan is ranked eighth among the countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis despite contributing less than 1% of global carbon emissions, according to the 2021 Climate Change Risk Index.

Afia Salam, a Pakistani environmental activist, told Al Jazeera that even dry parts of the country are being hit by floods due to climate change.

“Government and non-profit organizations have a responsibility to spread climate change adaptation policies in society, but despite the unpredictability of weather conditions and the serious threats of global warming, we have not seen any action serious on the part of the government,” she said.

Khan Muhammad, 31, lost his home in Gandawa to floods last week, forcing 20 family members into tents. He said people are forced to drink contaminated water which could lead to an outbreak of epidemic diseases in the region.

“The floods not only destroyed my house, but even the foodstuffs – sugar and wheat that we bought for the family – sank in the water. We have been without food or clean water for three days and my children are living under the sky,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The Prime Minister visited some villages in Jhal Magsi but he did not come to Gandawa where thousands of people are homeless and seeking help.”

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