15 August 2010

Pakistan flood update – 15th August 2010

Posted by Dave Petley

The second flood wave is now starting to affect the most devastated areas of Sindh.  The PakMet FFD hydrograph for Guddu has started to show an increase in discharge once again:

Note that the flood level has been above the exceptionally high (danger) level for ten days now.  Downstream at Sukkur the water level continues to fall very slowly, again remaining well above the danger level:

Expect this to start to rise once again in the next few days. Meanwhile, the final downstream station at Kotri the flood level remains very surprisingly low:

Assuming that these values are correct this must mean that a vast volume of water is being stored in the landscape between Sukkur and Kotri.  The flood is certainly spreading across the plains, as this report on new flooding in Jaffarabad demonstrates.  This NASA MODIS satellite image shows the area around Sukkur.  Notice how the area flooded changes at Sukkur, presumably because of the restriction in the flow by bridges and barrages:

There is a first class UNOSAT flood extent map here.   It demonstrates the areas in which the flood is still spreading – a close look is quite horrifying actually – the scale of the disaster is so huge that the media are understandably struggling to provide an adequate picture of the extent.

To multiply the problems the new flood wave travelling down the river.  This must be a very worrying situation once the second flood reaches Sukkur.  Although smaller than the first wave, the cumulative effects and the existing damage to levees spells a potentially very difficult situation.

Meanwhile, the focus of the media coverage is now on the downstream areas.  With 20 million people now directly affected by the floods, this is unsurprising.  However, the situation upstream also remains critical.  The Pamir Times has a good report on the situation in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is effectively cut off downstream by the loss of the Karokoram Highway and upstream by the Attabad landslide dam:

“The devastating landslides and flash floods that resulted in death of over 120 people in different parts of Gilgit – Baltistan have also blocked supply routes increasing misery and sufferings of hundreds of thousands more.

Blockage of the Karakuram Highway since last week of July has resulted in depletion of POL products, including petrol, diesel and Kerosene oil in the entire regions.  Hospitals have been closed and hotels are shutting down due to absence of electricity.  Banks have also closed down temporarily because of lack of electricity.Supply of electricity to Gilgit has been cut off for more than one week due to destruction of power houses and transmission lines. Transportation system has also collapsed due to closure of fuel stations that relied entirely on supplies from down country through the Karakuram Highway.  In Gojal valley the boats have stopped ferrying passengers and goods because of depletion of fuel reserves. The local people are cut off from other parts of the region without proper medical facilities and supplies.  Ghizar, Astore, Diamir and the two districts of Baltistan are also facing similar situations. Hundreds of displaced families in different parts of the region have still not been reached by the government and relief agencies. One such example is of the displaced people of Gaise village in Diamir where the food reserves have reportedly finished and starvation is setting in. Local people have demanded of the government to intensify its efforts in Gilgit – Baltistan to end miseries of the suffering people.  Deaths due to starvation and malnutrition seem to be a sad possibility in some far flung parts of remote affected districts of Gilgit – Baltistan.”
Jeff Master’s remarkable blog has an article on the causes of the Pakistan floods.  It remains my plan to follow this up in the next few days, if I can find the time given everything that is going on.