Pakistan facing risk of fresh floods, more deaths as toll crosses 1,500

Pakistan is facing the risk of fresh floods and more deaths, after unusually severe torrential downpours triggered by climate change submerged a third of the country and killed more than 1,500 people.

Although waters have started receding in some areas, authorities are worried heavy rains in parts of neighboring India could swell key rivers in Pakistan. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority has advised that people be evacuated from some areas of Pakistan to avoid further loss of property and lives.

The rivers have not seen any increase in water levels yet, the Pakistan Meteorological Department’s website showed on Saturday.

The climate catastrophe in the South Asian nation — already reeling from depleted currency reserves and the highest inflation in decades — has caused $30 billion of damage and affected 33 million, more than the population of Australia. The country recently avoided a default after the International Monetary Fund’s help. Bonds have hit the lowest since mid-July, while the rupee is near a record low.

“The economic impact of the floods is a major source of concern for global investors,” said Abdul Kadir Hussain, head of fixed income asset management at Dubai-based Arqaam Capital Ltd. Also, there is nothing tangible on dollar inflows that were supposed to follow the IMF loan, he said. On top of that, political uncertainty continues in the country, Hussain said.

At a time when the country is struggling to provide relief to millions of flood-affected people, the political atmosphere remains charged. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan received a rare public criticism from the army after he accused the government of delaying elections until a new army chief is appointed. Khan, who was ousted in April and is calling for early elections, is also facing multiple legal challenges that risk setting off street protests.

Flood Impacts in Pakistan

A woman carries a pot to fill drinking water in Umerkot district in Sindh province, Pakistan, on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. Floods triggered by torrential rains have wrecked devastation, inundating a third of Pakistan, displacing more than half a million people and destroying cash-crops and communication infrastructure.

The focus stays on the disaster. Scientists say climate change made peak rainfall in Pakistan’s Sindh and Balochistan provinces 75% more intense than it would have been in a world without warming. A heat wave in India and Pakistan earlier this year, also fueled by climate change, worsened the flooding, according to World Weather Attribution, a scientific group that studies the link between extreme weather events and climate change.

India’s weather office predicts monsoon rains in some parts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir until Tuesday. Still, the overall situation in Pakistan is improving. Some areas should be clear of floods in two to three weeks, but it could take as long as three months at some places, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s office said in a reply to Bloomberg’s questions.

–With assistance from Kevin Varley.

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