Water as far as the eye can see, a macabre toll that continues to grow and millions of lives turned upside down. Pakistan has been hit for three months by torrential monsoon rains that are ravaging everything. More than 33 million people, or one in seven Pakistanis, are affected and a third of this South Asian country is under water. Local Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman spoke of a “crisis of unimaginable proportions”. Franceinfo takes stock of this ongoing disaster.
>> IN PICTURES. In Pakistan, monsoon rains kill more than 1,000 people and devastate entire regions
A historic monsoon has been hitting the country for three months
Since June, the country has been affected by very heavy monsoon rains, “unprecedented for thirty years”, according to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September, is essential for irrigating plantations and replenishing water resources in the Indian subcontinent, but its consequences are proving dramatic this year. The northern and southern regions are particularly affected. In addition, the Indus, the country’s main river, is in flood and threatens to burst its banks.
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman spoke of a “crisis of unimaginable proportions”, and the authorities attribute the intensity of these bad weather to climate change. The country was also affected in April and May by a strong heat wave (51 degrees recorded in Jacobabad, central Pakistan) and drought, which negatively affect soil permeability, subsequently promoting rainwater runoff.
In their last report (in English), scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) note that global warming increases the risk of flooding in monsoon regions.
Human toll rises to at least 1,136 dead
At least 1,136 people, including 75 in the past 24 hours, have died since the monsoon began in June, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). More than 33 million people, or one in seven Pakistanis, are also affected by these monsoons which have caused immense floods in the country: a third of Pakistan is under water, according to the Minister of Climate Change.
In Pakistan, 119 dead in one day, and more than 1,000 deaths since June in the floods caused by the monsoon.
— franceinfo plus (@franceinfoplus) August 28, 2022
To illustrate the gravity of this disaster, the Minister of Climate Change announced that these bad weather was even worse than that of 2010, the year in which 2,000 people were killed and almost a fifth of Pakistan submerged.
“We are used to the monsoon every year, but have never seen anything like it. It’s been eight weeks of constant showers,” explained in an interview with AFP Sherry Rehman, who speaks of a “dystopian film”.
In the face of extensive material damage, a state of emergency has been declared.
Beyond the human drama, these monsoons totally upset the local landscape. “It’s all just one big ocean, there’s no dry place to pump water from,” lamented the Minister of Climate Change. Nearly a million houses have been destroyed or seriously damaged, according to the government.
The NDMA said that more than 80,000 hectares of farmland had been ravaged and more than 3,400 kilometers of roads and 157 bridges had been washed away, hampering relief operations. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), more than three million people have been forced from their homes, while at least 710,000 farm animals have died. The government has declared a state of emergency.
An appeal for assistance to the international community has been launched
With the help of the United Nations, the Pakistani government launched, on Tuesday August 30, an urgent appeal for donations of 160 million euros in order to come to the aid of the victims and the displaced. This financial windfall should make it possible to finance an emergency plan for the next six months.
The Minister of Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal, has declared that his country would need more than ten billion euros to repair the damage following the floods. On Saturday, President Emmanuel Macron announced that “France [était] ready to help” in the disaster-stricken country.