“Ratodero, a city in Pakistan’s Sindh province, about 300 miles north of Karachi, was hit hard by recent flooding with homes seen destroyed on Aug. 29. (Video: Reuters)
“A monsoon on steroids.”
Officials have struggled to put into words the scale of the flooding that has destroyed large parts of Pakistan. More than 1,000 people have died, and tens of millions more have been affected by months of incessant rain.
Maxar Technologies released satellite images of the city of Rojhan, in the state of Punjab, before and during the floods that showed entire communities cut off.
Rojhan, Pakistan, on March 24, before the floods. (Maxar Technologies)
As Pakistan grapples with the loss of housing and farmlands as well as the risk of disease, many fear the country’s humanitarian disaster is only beginning.
Exceptional rainfall began across Pakistan in June after months of historic heat waves and little precipitation.
The ground was dry and loose from record heat, causing landslides across the country. Melting glaciers triggered floods.
Rainfall picked up even more as monsoon season began in July, which became the wettest on record since 1961, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department.
Pakistan has had eight rounds of widespread rain this monsoon season, about double the normal amount. The country has experienced 190 percent more rainfall than average from the beginning of June to the end of August. As the Indus River swelled from the steady precipitation and glaciers melted, low-lying areas were devastated.
The last two weeks brought even more rainfall to Pakistan’s southern region.
Estimated 15-day rainfall
In inches Aug. 12-26
Satellite imagery from Aug. 28 to Aug. 30 showed visible areas of flooding.
The provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh saw rainfall of 410 percent and 466 percent above average, respectively, from early June to Aug. 29. The ensuing floods have ravaged towns and upended lives.
“Rains have been going on in my village for the last two months,” said Zahid Ali Jalalani, a 35-year-old farmer in the Khairpur district of Sindh, who spoke to The Washington Post by phone. After a canal burst last week, his village flooded overnight, with water levels rising to 10 feet in some areas. Across the south, families waded through high water in search of dry land.
“It was the most terrible night of my life,” he said. “My house is well built, but at one time it seemed as if the walls were shaking.”
The extreme flooding has killed more than 1,160 people, many of them children, according to the Pakistani government.
Jalalani emerged from his home to the sound of cries for help, he recalled. He said he spent more than six hours saving people who were trapped by the water, which had risen past their shoulders. He knew one man who drowned.
“He was under a pile of rubble, and we couldn’t pull him out,” Jalalani said. “It was so dark.”
Hundreds of people from his village are in a makeshift camp, while there are nearly 500,000 people in displacement camps across the country.
Thousands more who have fled their homes in Sindh are still struggling to find care. Many walked for days in search of shelter and set up tents along the province’s main highway. Others have moved into abandoned buildings.
At a high school in the city of Jamshoro, hundreds of people crowded into classrooms and the surrounding gardens. Most had nothing but the clothes they fled in.
Ghulam Qadir, 17, escaped his village two weeks ago. He and five of his family members have been sleeping in a classroom for over a week.
“We left our home when the water reached to almost my neck,” Qadir said. His house had begun to collapse. Two rooms caved in, and another was starting to crumble. “I was worried about my family, especially the children,” he said.
The government estimates that 33 million people have been affected by the floods, about 13 percent of the population.
The World Health Organization said Wednesday that 888 health facilities have been damaged, even as experts warned that the disaster could lead to an increase in disease and malnutrition. Standing water can act as breeding sites for mosquitoes that carry dengue fever and malaria.
Vector-borne disease researcher Erum Khan said dengue cases have already increased since the flooding. Her lab in Aga Khan University in Karachi reported more than 200 cases in August, compared with fewer than 30 in April. “Actual numbers are likely much higher,” Khan added.
Read the article on The Washington Post .