The UN said more than 20m survivors are trying to resume their lives in the flood’s wake. This year’s “extreme and unusual weather” represents global climate change, said Director General of Pakistan Meteorology Department, Dr. Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhary.
He pointed to the wild variation between 2009 and 2010: from a rainfall 40% below average to this year’s flooding.
Pakistan generally receives summer rainfall from July to September through a system called “monsoon” or the “Eastern Disturbance” that originates from Bay of Bengal, travels through India and delivers rain to eastern Pakistan, including Sindh, Punjab and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.
This year, though, the pattern changed drastically, with monsoons drenching the usual areas but then punching deep into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. That “has never happened before,” meteorologist Dr. Muhammad Hanif said.
Unprecedented rains of 400mm in just 36 hours lashed Peshawar, Dir, Risalpur, Cherat, Parachinar and Upper Dir — in contrast with average annual rainfall of 40mm. Floods were inevitable.
The monsoon system was so strong it went into Afghanistan, which already had a westerly rain system.
“The combined effect of both systems caused heavy rainfall in eastern Afghanistan and produced hill torrents that poured into the Kabul River and its catchment areas in Pakistan, swelling the rivers,” said Hanif.
“Normally the two systems merge for only around six hours, but this time the fusion remained for nearly three to four days,” Chaudhary said.
Apocalypse might be a fair term for the swelling of the Kabul River and its tributaries that befell Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the hardest-hit Pakistani province, UN officials have identified 2.7m survivors in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.
Other provinces suffered badly, too, when the Indus River became part of the flood. South Punjab and Upper Sindh also have lost lives and property.
At least 1,600 people died and 290,000 houses were damaged or destroyed nationwide.
A second wave of deaths from starvation and disease will follow “if we do not respond soon enough,” UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Maurizio Giuliano has warned.
Survivors worry where their next meal will come from. More than 700,000ha of standing crops are under water or destroyed. The flooding may have destroyed US $1 billion worth of crops, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said.
The negative impact might stretch into the 2010-11 planting season, due to start in October and November, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
“There may be severe shortages too, and riots could well break out,” independent economist Meekal Ahmed predicted.
International research shows that Pakistan is more prone to “rapid climate change” than any other country, Hanif said. While Jacobabad and Sukkur in Sindh province sizzle at 50 degrees Celsius, temperatures in Astore in the northern Diamer district plunge to sub-zero.