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Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan flood

World on the Edge, writes Lester Brown, Earth Policy

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In his introduction to the upcoming title, Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute says that we are facing issues of near-overwhelming complexity and unprecedented urgency. “Our challenge is to think globally and develop policies to counteract environmental decline and economic collapse. The question is: Can we change direction before we go over the edge?”

The edge is what Pakistan and Russia did go over in 2010. In the summer of 2010 record-high temperatures hit Moscow and torrential rains caused immense devastation in Pakistan.

NASA Earth Observatory, Russia fires

NASA Earth Observatory, Russia fires

At first it was just another heat wave, says the first chapter of the book, but the scorching heat that started in late June continued through mid-August. Western Russia was so hot and dry in early August that 300 or 400 new fires were starting every day. Millions of acres of forest burned. So did thousands of homes. Crops withered. Day after day, Moscow was bathed in seemingly endless smoke. The elderly and those with impaired respiratory systems struggled to breathe. The death rate climbed as heat stress and smoke took their toll.

The average July temperature in Moscow was a scarcely believable 14 degrees Fahrenheit above the norm. Twice during the heat wave, the Moscow temperature exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a level Muscovites had never before experienced. Watching the heat wave play out over a seven-week period on the TV evening news, with the thousands of fires and the smoke everywhere, was like watching a horror film that had no end. Russia’s 140 million people were in shock, traumatized by what was happening to them and their country.

Mohammad Rezwan, 24, swims one hour every other day to get food from at a World Food Programme distribution in Kashmore, Pakistan. Photo: IRIN News

Mohammad Rezwan, 24, swims one hour every other day to get food from at a World Food Programme distribution in Kashmore, Pakistan. Photo: IRIN News

Even before the Russian heat wave ended, there were reports in late July of torrential rains in the mountains of northern Pakistan. The Indus River, the lifeline of Pakistan, and its tributaries were overflowing. Levees that had confined the river to a narrow channel so the fertile floodplains could be farmed had failed. Eventually the raging waters covered one fifth of the country. The destruction was everywhere. Some 2 million homes were damaged or destroyed. More than 20 million people were affected by the flooding. Nearly 2,000 Pakistanis died. Some 6 million acres of crops were damaged or destroyed. Over a million livestock drowned. Roads and bridges were washed away.

Although the flooding was blamed on the heavy rainfall, there were actually several trends converging to produce what was described as the largest natural disaster in Pakistan’s history. On May 26, 2010, the official temperature in Mohenjodaro in south-central Pakistan reached 128 degrees Fahrenheit, a record for Asia. Snow and glaciers in the western Himalayas, where the tributaries of the Indus River originate, were melting fast. As Pakistani glaciologist M. Iqbal Khan noted, the glacial melt was already swelling the flow of the Indus even before the rains came.

Pakistan ‘superflood’ and relief work

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A crowd of people surround a truck loaded with food aid © Eduardo Diaz/UN OCHA

A crowd of people surround a truck loaded with food aid © Eduardo Diaz/UN OCHA

New reportage, contact information of UN and related relief efforts, other resources.

Shelter assistance: Daily updates on distributions to date, coverage, projected coverage and outstanding gaps in terms of shelter assistance are available on the shelter cluster website.

Logistics assistance: The Logistics Cluster is coordinating with the Pakistan Government to include relief items from the humanitarian community. Interested organisations can contact the cluster here.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization is running a range of relief programmes in Pakistan.

Outside Islamabad, humanitarian coordination centres (HCCs) continue to operate in Peshawar (covering Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Multan (covering Punjab) and Sukkur (covering Sindh). Contact details of coordination focal points in each are below. Further information is available on the response website.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA Pakistan, Manuel Bessler, Head of Office
Maurizio Giuliano, Public Information Officer, UN Pakistan +92 300 8502397
Nicki Bennett, Senior Humanitarian Affairs Officer +92 300 850 2289
Susan le Roux, Donor Liaison Officer +92 308 520 5819
Fawad Hussain, Sindh Coordination Centre +92 301 854 2495
Hussain Ullah, Punjab Coordination Centre +92 301 854 2449
Waheed Anwar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Coordination Centre +92 301 854 2449
Alexander Hasenstab, NGO Liaison Officer +92 345 850 9011

Plan Pakistan is coordinating relief work and assistance, donations and material. Contact them here.

UN OCHA’s Pakistan Monsoon Floods Situation Report 18 August 2010 says:

A submerged street near Nowshera, Kyhber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Rising water in dams could create more havoc © Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN

A submerged street near Nowshera, Kyhber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Rising water in dams could create more havoc © Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN

Government figures on the number of people directly affected by the floods remain unchanged since the previous situation report, at 15.4 million (National and Provincial Disaster Management Authorities, 18 August). Assessments to establish the degree to which affected populations are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance continue.

The official death toll has risen to 1,475, with 2,052 people reported as injured. Almost 1 million houses are now reported as having been either damaged or destroyed. The south of the country continues to feel the impact of the second wave of floods, with a spur of the Indus River now stretching through Jacobabad district in Sindh into Jaffarabad in Balochistan.

The Meteorological Department warns of a continuing risk of inundation of low-lying areas of Khairpur, Jacobabad, Ghotki, Sukkur, Larkana, Nawabshah, Hyderabad, Naushahro Feroze and Thatta districts of Sindh in the coming days. The Meteorological Department’s Flood Forecasting Division reports that flood levels in the Indus are holding at “extremely high” levels at Guddu and Sukkur in northern Sindh, and rising further downriver at Kotri, as the flood wave continues to move through the province.

Despite the continuing efforts of the Government and the humanitarian community to assist affected populations across the country, large numbers of people are yet to be reached with the assistance they need, particularly in Sindh and Punjab. While funding levels are now improving in key sectors, the continuing threat of flooding in many areas and the manner in which populations are spread across a vast area persist as major operational challenges.

An IRIN news report has said that the chaotic evacuation of towns and villages in flood affected areas means vulnerable people have become separated from male family members, putting them at a disadvantage: The elderly, women and children are often unable to reach the bags or parcels being distributed, especially when mobs besiege the aid trucks. “It’s these vulnerable groups that we need to pay attention to,” said Shahnawaz Khan, disaster risk reduction coordinator for the NGO Plan Pakistan.

Aid organizations have already expressed concern over incidents in which convoys attempting to hand out food have been attacked. A 16 August report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said looting of aid supplies has been alleged in Muzaffargarh in the southwestern part of Punjab Province, one of the worst-hit of the province’s 36 districts. A Muzaffargarh District administration official who asked not to be named said: “We have hordes of starving people. Things are desperate. There is insufficient aid and people who are weak and vulnerable, including women, are naturally worst affected.”

IFRC Secretary General Bekele Geleta said millions of Pakistanis have been affected by the most destructive disaster in the country’s history. “Survivors have experienced tragedy three times over,” said Geleta, who took part in a distribution of tents and other relief items by the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) in Charsadda and Tenghi, north of Peshawar. “Many have lost loved ones, household goods and animals. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is now planning a fivefold increase in its response to Pakistan’s monsoon “superflood”, and is appealing to international donors to support a recovery programme likely to extend to 2012. In the medium term, at least 6 million people will need emergency humanitarian assistance, in the form of safe water, tents and shelter materials, and medical help.