Peshawar – Floods sweeping Asia have killed more than 900 people, officials said on Saturday, washing away thousands of homes and destroying infrastructure in some of the worst scenes in living memory.
Heavy monsoon rains exacted the heaviest toll in northwest Pakistan, with 800 confirmed dead and the regional capital Peshawar cut off, while the deluge killed another 65 people in mountainous areas across the border in Afghanistan.
Floods devastating northeast China have killed at least 37 people and destroyed 25 000 homes, with the authorities racing to intercept vessels that broke their moorings and retrieve barrels full of explosive chemicals headed for a dam.
The worst floods in living memory destroyed homes and swathes of farmland in northwest Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmir, with the main highway to China reportedly cut and the military deployed to help isolated communities.
The United Nations said almost a million people had been affected by the Pakistan flooding.
Pakistan’s weather bureau said an “unprecedented” 312 millimetres of rain had fallen in 36 hours in the northwest but predicted only scattered showers during coming days.
Authorities in northeastern China predicted more heavy rain for central and eastern parts of the hard-hit Jilin province, where at least 35 people are missing and more than 364 000 people have been evacuated.
Water, electricity and telecommunication services were cut in parts of the province, while train services in the town of Kouqian were suspended after the railway station was surrounded by flood waters, previous reports said.
More than 95 000 buildings have been damaged in the floods, with 25 000 destroyed, Xinhua news agency reported.
Hundreds of workers continued to retrieve 3 000 barrels full of explosive chemicals that were washed by flood waters into the Songhua River.
The barrels are being swept down the river at a faster pace than before, after the Fengman dam floodgates were opened on Friday afternoon, and experts are worried the barrels could explode if they hit a dam further downstream.
Although flooding is a natural phenomenon, man has exacerbated the effects and in many cases, has caused flooding intensity and frequency to increase. Dams, man-induced soil erosion, deforestation and building in flood zones coupled with climate change will result in increasing ‘worst floods in living memory’. Apart from the obvious environmental impact of extreme flooding and high water levels, other effects such as pollution of rivers and groundwater could have far greater long-term effect. Urban landscapes tend to result in increased stormwater runoff as rainwater is channeled away from houses and roads and sent to nearby rivers and watercourses & sewage works. One way of reducing stormwater runoff (and assisting with flood risk reduction) is to collect rainwater from rooftops and store it in rainwater tanks for household consumption. Rain gardens are another way of reducing stormwater runoff.