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Among the many natural disasters, floods occupy a special place. Streams of water can wipe out entire cities from the face of the Earth, and their consequences are truly catastrophic. Believe it or not, floods are so common that more than 2 billion people worldwide were affected between 1998 and 2017. Think about these numbers. The violence of the elements also affects agricultural facilities and can eventually lead to starvation. This is exactly the situation that has developed in Pakistan today – monsoon rains have been flooding the country since mid-summer. According to official figures, at least a thousand people became victims of the flood, and 500,000 people were forced to leave their homes. At the same time, the number of victims is growing every day, exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe: a third of Pakistan is under water right now, and most of the crop has been destroyed.
Causes of floods
Monsoon rains and melting glaciers are considered the main causes of river flooding: the high intensity of precipitation (as well as their duration) leads to a rise in water levels and subsequent flooding of nearby areas. At the same time, even short-term rains can lead to a disaster. Hurricanes and tsunamis also pose a threat, due to which tons of water fall on land, causing irreparable damage to infrastructure.
Experts attribute increased flooding to climate change, as rising temperatures are causing glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise. Many littoral countries will be under water by 2030, according to a range of climate models, and floods will be 50% more frequent by 2100. According to climatologist Era Keirzji from the University of Melbourne, in the past, unusually powerful floods occurred once every hundred years.
As rapid climate change leads to an increase in extreme weather events, a third of Pakistan has gone under water right before our eyes. Earlier, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif called what is happening the biggest disaster in the last 30 years.
The element claimed the lives of more than a thousand people, and at least 33 million left the flooded areas. The situation is aggravated by the lack of food and clean water, which is fraught with the spread of various infections.
Floods have tremendous destructive power. When rivers overflow their banks and seas move on land, urban infrastructure cannot withstand the power of the water. For example, flooding in Bangladesh in July 2007 led to the destruction of more than a million homes. Water retreat, however, is no less dangerous due to its contamination with debris, pesticides, fuels and dangerous pathogens.
Flooding in Pakistan
Pakistan is located in South Asia and borders Afghanistan, India and Iran. It is impossible to call the region calm – the country is actually at war with India because of the disputed border region of Kashmir. The situation worsened this summer as monsoon rains hit Pakistan. Record rainfall eventually submerged a third of the country , and the authorities turned to other countries for help.
The death toll is on the rise, according to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority. More than 6.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and at least 900 health facilities have been affected by the floods, according to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report.
Experts cite a combination of record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in Pakistan’s northern mountains as the cause of the disaster. According to UNICEF, the flooding has destroyed some 17,000 schools across the country, and at least three million children and 128,000 pregnant women are in need of assistance. Pakistani Health Minister Azra Fazal Pechuho said earlier that the government is doing everything possible to provide the necessary assistance to those affected.
To be honest, we have never seen so much rainfall. No country in the world can cope alone with the multiple impacts of extreme weather and climate events. This is a huge humanitarian catastrophe that can be called apocalyptic. Unfortunately, conditions will worsen and could lead to massive starvation, authorities said in an interview with Sky News.
In the three months to August this year, the country received almost three times more rain than the 30-year average. While flooding is frequent in Pakistan during the rainy season, rainfall intensity was 780 percent above average. Experts also warn of the need for long-term assistance as the death toll continues to rise.
The country also lost a record amount of crops, which means that in the very near future the problem of food shortages will become especially acute (as well as the lack of drinking water). China, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan sent at least 38 humanitarian aid planes to Pakistan.
The consequences of the floods are causing serious damage to the country’s economy – at the time of this writing, losses amounted to at least $10 billion. According to some estimates, however, this amount will increase in the very near future, exceeding 20 billion US dollars. And since the economic situation in Pakistan was difficult even before the disaster, the effects of climate change are exacerbating the situation.
WHO experts are also concerned about the spread of deadly diseases, including diarrhea, cholera, malaria and dengue fever. These pathogens thrive in water, and the lack of proper sanitation endangers the health and lives of millions of people.
According to Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, “the country is struggling with one of the worst disasters in its history.” His words are confirmed by satellite images provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) – they clearly show that at some point more than a third of the country’s territory was under water.
And just like that, in just a few months, hundreds and thousands of families lost their homes and access to basic necessities. But even if the flooding recedes soon, the road to recovery will be long, and many survivors will have to start their lives from scratch.