Rains wreak regional havoc

Wicked weather: People waiting to cross a flooded area in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. — AFP

Around 70 people have been killed by heavy rains lashing Afghanistan over the past five days, the government’s disaster management department said.

Afghanistan was parched by an unusually dry winter which desiccated the earth, exacerbating flash-flooding caused by spring downpours in most provinces.

Disaster management spokesman Janan Sayeq said “approximately 70 people lost their lives” as a result of rains between Saturday and Wednesday.

Fifty-six others have been injured, he said, while more than 2,600 houses have been damaged or destroyed and 95,000 acres of farmland wiped away.

Giving a smaller death toll last week, Janan said most fatalities at that point had been caused by roof collapses resulting from the deluges.

The United Nations last year warned that “Afghanistan is experiencing major swings in extreme weather conditions”.

After four decades of war the country ranks among the nations least prepared to face extreme weather events, which scientists say are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change.

Water woes: People looking at an overflowing stream following heavy rains, on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan. — AgenciesWater woes: People looking at an overflowing stream following heavy rains, on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan. — Agencies

At least 25 people were killed in a landslide after massive snowfall in eastern Afghanistan in February, while around 60 were killed in a three-week spate of precipitation ending in March.

In PAKISTAN at least 65 people have died in storm-related incidents including lightning, officials said, with rain so far in April falling at nearly twice the historical average rate.

Heavy downpours between last Friday and Monday unleashed flash floods and caused houses to collapse, while lightning killed at least 28 people.

The largest death toll was in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where 32 people have died, including 15 children, and more than 1,300 homes have been damaged.

“All the casualties resulted from the collapse of walls and roofs,” Anwar Khan, spokesman for the province’s disaster management authority, said on Wednesday.

Villagers whose homes were inundated with water were forced to seek refuge on higher ground, including on the shoulders of motorways, creating makeshift tents with plastic sheeting and bamboo sticks.

“In April, we have observed highly unusual rainfall patterns,” Zaheer Ahmad Babar, spokesperson for the Pakistan Meteorological Department, said.

“From April 1st to April 17th, we experienced precipitation levels exceeding the historical average by 99%,” he added, citing data from the past 30 years as a comparison.

Residents standing near the flooded waters outside their homes in Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan. — AgenciesResidents standing near the flooded waters outside their homes in Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan. — Agencies

Most of the country experienced a pause in rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, but more downpours are predicted in the coming days.

“Climate change is a major factor behind these unusual weather patterns and above normal rainfalls, but it’s not just Pakistan which is affected, the whole region is experiencing changes in temperature patterns,” Zaheer added.

Pakistan is increasingly vulnerable to unpredictable weather patterns, as well as often destructive monsoon rains that usually arrive in July.

In the summer of 2022, a third of Pakistan was submerged by unprecedented monsoon rains that displaced millions of people and cost the country US$30bil in damage and economic losses, according to a World Bank estimate.

In the latest rains, 21 people including farmers harvesting wheat were killed by lightning in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, provincial authorities said.

At least eight people were killed in Balochistan province, including seven struck by lightning, where 25 districts were battered by rain and some areas were flooded. — AFP

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