Pakistan counts cost as force of the flood eases

The worst devastation caused by 10 days of flooding in Pakistan has ended. Although the floods are still advancing through the farm belt of southern Punjab and Sind, the force of the raging waters has diminished, according to Pakistani officials.

A showdown between man and Nature occurred yesterday at Guddu, a long dam spanning the Indus River on Sind's border with Punjab. At risk was Asia's biggest power plant, which stands on the Guddu riverbanks with its high voltage lines swooping dangerously low over the swollen river.

Also menaced by the floods was an irrigation system connected to the dam watering millions of acres. To save the Guddu Dam, and the heavily populated industrial towns below it, army engineers were forced to blast holes in the embankment up-river at Panjnad yesterday, sacrificing hundreds of evacuated villages and low-lying farmland.

Two Muslim clergymen sat on top of the dam reciting the Koran to invoke divine help. A government provincial deputy, fearing the breach would flood his constituency, deployed dozens of armed men to stop the engineers.

A breach on the left side was ruled out because of fears that it would affect densely populated towns and destroy precious stores of grain and fertilizer worth millions of pounds in Rahimyar Khan district, officials said.

Army engineers also feared that the five flooded rivers racing across Pakistan would converge on the Indus at the same time, causing a huge inland wave that would wreak terrible destruction. But the army was able to prevent this by dynamiting the river banks in places to slow the advance of the rivers so that the floods did not all hit the Indus at once.

So far, these monsoon floods have claimed more than 2,000 lives, devastated crops in a broad swathe across Pakistan and have marooned around 1.5 million people without homes. In Islamabad, the government yesterday raised damage estimates to more than pounds 900m. In Sind, the latest region hit by flooding, more than 1,000 villages along the Indus were submerged yesterday.

A Guddu Dam engineer, Abdul Satah, said: 'If the army didn't open the breaches, this barrage would not be standing.' While scores of families fled the rising waters, there was heavy traffic also going in the opposite direction, towards the dam. Curious onlookers clung from bus-roofs and horse and buggies, riding to Guddu. They wanted to see if the dam could withstand the floods. If the Guddu did collapse, these thousands of sightseers would have been the first to be swept to their deaths in the Indus's whirlpools and rapids. Downriver, the Sukkur Dam, built by Britain in the 1930s, and the Kotri, also held firm against the currents.

As the floods roared through Sind, the water was being contained by two 20ft-high earthen walls that had been bulldozed into place eight miles inland from the Indus River. These walls run parallel to the Indus and cut through a soggy, flat landscape of palm groves pounded into the grey mud. Thousands of refugees, dragging along their goats and cattle, are now setting up camp on top of these earthen walls. Some aid workers expressed concern that malaria, dysentery and typhoid may soon break out among the flood victims unless medical relief reaches them soon.

Sind's Chief Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Shah, cautioned that even though the flood seems to be reined in, more villages could be submerged over the next two days. 'We can contain the waters within the embankments, but it's an area close to a thousand miles,' he said. Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, yesterday toured some of the flood-damaged areas and promised immediate relief funds to refugees.

The flood has unleashed a torrent of political woes for Mr Sharif. The opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, accused the Islamabad government of 'criminal delay' in failing to alert the farmers in time in her Larkana constituency in Sind that the sluicegates of the Mangla Dam upriver would be opened. Over 40 people died, unable to escape the wall of water let loose from the Mangla Dam.

Mr Sharif now has earned a reputation for falling back on the army during a crisis. The army stepped in recently to chase bandits in Sind after Mr Sharif's government proved too corrupt and unwilling to handle the task. Now, relief workers claim, it was swift action by the army and not the civil authorities that prevented thousands more Pakistanis from dying in the monsoon floods.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
The Aviva Premiership trophy
rugby union All the latest from Twickenham
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood
footballDanny Higginbotham: Tim Sherwood must play game of two halves to cause major upset
News
Caber is trained to help child victims of serious crimes testify
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor