The death toll from massive flooding in India and Pakistan has risen past 400, officials say, as both countries warn of more damage in the week ahead. The floods, which have occurred after days of heavy monsoon rains in northwestern India and northeastern Pakistan, have affected well almost a million people in both countries, according to official estimates.
In Pakistan, at least 203 people have been killed, mostly in Punjab province and parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, officials say. The death toll in India stands at 200, officials there say, with Indian-administered Kashmir the worst hit by the crisis.
In India, rescue efforts have focused on southern Kashmir and the main city of Srinagar, with about 400,000 people still stranded, the PTI news agency quoted local officials as saying.
Rescue efforts in Pakistan, meanwhile have focused on Punjab, where the flood peak continues to pass through barrages and rivers, officials at the Punjab Meteorological department told Al Jazeera.
Military personnel on both sides of the border have been flying helicopter sorties to evacuate those trapped in remote locations, as well as dropping emergency supplies to those in need.
Evacuations main concern
In Pakistan, several cities in the plains of Punjab were flooded by both torrential downpours since September 3, and the River Jhelum and Chenab overflowing their banks. Among those cities are Lahore, Hafizabad, Wazirabad, Gujranwala and several others.
The flood peak is now expected at the Trimmu Barrage, in central Punjab, from where it is expected to pass on towards Multan, another major metropolitan centre, said Muhammad Riaz, the chief meteorologist at the Punjab Meteorological Department.
Several barrages and other river flow control mechanisms have had to be breached along the Jhelum and Chenab in order to manage the flood, Riaz said.
“One issue that needs to be addressed is trying to take the people away from the main course of the river, which always is the problem,” said Ahmed Kamal, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which is co-ordinating rescue efforts.
Both officials said the flood peak was expected to join the River Indus, Pakistan’s main river, by early next week, flooding parts of Sindh province.
Riaz said that with no further intense rain expected, authorities were now focusing on managing the flood as it passes through the country’s river systems. "The expectation is that if the weather system diffuses, then we will just have to ride out the current flood through the Indus system until next week."
Relief camps established
Rescue efforts, meanwhile, continue in the affected areas. On Tuesday, Pakistan's military said it had rescued 1,500 people in northern Punjab, and established more than 50 relief camps.
Pakistani authorities say they have evacuated more than 18,000 people in total, using helicopters and more than 500 boats in the worst-hit areas.
With flows of water above the designed limits for many of Pakistan's barrages, Kamal warned that there was a constant threat of “human error” leading to further flooding.
Moreover, he added, the passing of the flood would only signal the beginning of the real relief work. "One thing I should say very clearly: it will take some time, and the emergency situation will prevail for quite a while."