News"Monster monsoon" in Pakistan - a country sinks in...

"Monster monsoon" in Pakistan – a country sinks in the flash floods

Created: 08/30/2022, 10:14 am

Extreme flooding hits Pakistan this monsoon season. Millions of people are homeless. The government is asking for international help.

Islamabad – Europe, China and the United States have experienced extreme drought and heat waves this summer, the extent of which experts attribute to climate change. Pakistan, on the other hand, with its approximately 220 million inhabitants, is now facing what is possibly the country’s worst flooding disaster due to an extreme monsoon. The newspaper Dawn reported that “more than half of Pakistan” is currently under water and millions of people have been made homeless. The Minister for Climate Change, Sherry Rehman, spoke of a “monster monsoon”. It is a catastrophe of “epic proportions”. The floods follow an extreme heat wave that hit Pakistan and India in the spring.

According to data from Pakistan’s Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), almost 33 million people, about 15 percent of the population, are currently suffering from the floods in 110 of the country’s 150 districts. This is worse than during the “superflood” that the country experienced in 2010. At that time, around 20 million became homeless and around 2,000 lost their lives. The current number of victims has so far been given as more than 1000, but they are likely to continue to rise. The government in Islamabad has declared a state of emergency and asked the international community for help.

Überall Wasser: Eine Frau in Rajanpur versucht, ihre Habseligkeiten ins Trockene zu bringen.
Water everywhere: A woman in Rajanpur tries to dry her belongings. © Imago

Regions in the south of the country are particularly affected. There, the floods have destroyed houses and bridges, submerged entire towns and ripped down mountain slopes. According to eyewitnesses, people, especially children, were swept away by the water. Others died in house collapses caused by flash floods and landslides in the hilly areas. More than half a million people have been evacuated and taken to safer places, including with the help of the military, according to the NDMA.

Pakistan: “This is a deluge”

Initially, many refused to leave their homes, reports Rescue 1122. However, when the water rose, they agreed. The refugees now live in schools, mosques or tents. Since the weekend, tens of thousands in the north have also been fleeing the masses of water after rivers there had turned into torrents. Several districts there are cut off from the outside world after an important bridge was torn down.

The annual monsoon, which brings heavy rains in India and Pakistan, usually lasts from June to September. It plays a very important role for water supplies and agriculture, but it also repeatedly leads to devastating floods and devastation. This year the situation is extreme. Pakistan has already received an average of more than 350 millimeters of rain per square meter this monsoon season, more than triple the normal value of 113.7 millimeters up to this point. In August it rained eight times more than normal in the province of Sindh in the south-east of the country, and five times as much as normal in Balochistan in the south-west. Pakistan consists of four provinces.

According to Climate Minister Rehman, the country is currently experiencing its eighth rainy season this season, with around four to five of them being usual in a full season. “Pakistan has never seen a continuous cycle of monsoons like this,” she wrote on Twitter. “This is not a normal time of year. This is a deluge that will affect more than 33 million people, the size of a small country.” She warned that more rain is forecast for September. Then a third of the country could be under water.

Global warming means more wet summers

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Rehman cited the extreme weather conditions that have hit Pakistan this year as evidence of the climate crisis. “It literally started in late February, early March, when we went straight from winter to spring.” Pakistan has become one of the hottest places in the world, with more than 53 degrees Celsius in the south of the country. That triggered a whole series of forest fires, “which we had to fight in areas where there is already little forest.”

The neighboring monsoon country of India is currently only slightly affected by flooding. In August, the average rainfall was just under six percent above normal. However, there were also regional torrential downpours, for example in the northern states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Flash floods and landslides killed more than 30 people there.

Junge Männer am Sonntag in Belutschistan, wo bereits fünfmal mehr Regen fiel als in einer gewöhnlichen Saison.
Young men on Sunday in Balochistan, which has already experienced five times more rain than in a typical season. © afp

Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to climate change. According to the climate risk index of the German NGO Germanwatch, it is in eighth place among the countries most at risk from extreme weather events as a result of global warming. For the extreme heat waves that hit Pakistan as well as India more frequently, climate research has now clearly demonstrated the connection with climate change. This is how the climate researchers Friedrike Otto and Mariam Zachariah from Imperial College London showed in a study this spring: Before the rise in global temperatures, a heat wave like that of April would have occurred on the subcontinent about once every 50 years, but such an event is now occurring much more frequently before – namely about every four years.

In the case of the summer monsoon, too, an intensification and greater unpredictability as a result of warming has long been suspected, but this was associated with uncertainties. A study by a research team from the University of Munich and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research last year brought more clarity, in which more than 30 current climate models were analyzed. Result: If global warming continues unabated, the Indian subcontinent will face more extremely wet summers. You can now see what that means. (Joachim Will)

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