Glacial lake eruptions increase in Pakistan as country grapples with devastating floods

Glacial lake eruptions increase in Pakistan as country grapples with devastating floods
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The country’s chief meteorologist warned that the usual glacial lake eruptions have tripled in Pakistan this year alone — a sudden release of water from a lake fed by glacial melt — that could be the cause. catastrophic flood.

Sardar Sarfaraz of Pakistan’s Meteorology Department said on Thursday there were 16 such incidents in the country’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region in 2022, compared to just five or six events seen in previous years.

“This is why drought events occur after the glaciers melt. [a] “Climate change is the root cause of this kind of thing,” Sarfaraz told Reuters.

Melting glaciers are one of the clearest, most visible signs and most direct consequences of the climate crisis.

It is not yet clear how much the current flooding crisis in Pakistan may be linked to glacier meltdown. But unless planet-warming emissions are reined in, Sarfaraz suggests the country’s glaciers will continue to melt rapidly.

Global warming will not stop until we reduce greenhouse gases, and if global warming does not stop, these climate change effects will increase.”

Pakistan is responsible less than 1% of earth’s planet-warming gasesAccording to European Union data, it is still the eighth most vulnerable country to the climate crisis according to the Global Climate Risk Index.

This vulnerability has been on display for months, with record monsoons and melting glaciers in the country’s northern mountains triggering floods that have killed at least 1,191 people, including 399 children, since mid-June.

A local resident stands next to his home, which was damaged in June after a glacial lake eruption in the northern Pakistani village of Hassanabad caused catastrophic flooding.
A vehicle drives past a partially collapsed section of the Karakoram Highway that was damaged by the explosion of a glacial lake in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

New flood fears

On Thursday, southern Pakistan was braced for further flooding by a surge of water flowing down the Indus river, adding to the devastation in a country one-third inundated by the disaster caused by climate change.

The United Nations has requested $160 million to aid in what it calls an “unprecedented climate catastrophe.”

“We are on high alert as water coming downstream from the northern flood is expected to enter the province in the next few days,” Sindh provincial government spokesman Murtaza Wahab told Reuters.

A flow of about 600,000 cubic feet per second is expected to swell the Indus, Wahab said, testing its flood defenses.

Pakistan received a total of 390.7 mm (15.38 inches) of rain in the quarter from June to August, about 190% more than the 30-year average.

With a population of 50 million, Sindh was the most affected region, receiving 466% more precipitation than the 30-year average.

Parts of the state resemble an inland sea, with only the occasional tree shards or raised roads breaking the surface of murky floodwaters.

Hundreds of families took refuge on the roads, which for many was the only dry land in sight.

A man searches for salvage items from his flooded home on Thursday in the Shikarpur district of Pakistan's Sindh Province.
This aerial photograph taken on September 1, 2022 shows the flooded settlements in Dera Allah Yar town in Jaffarabad district, Balochistan province.

Villagers begged for food or other help to meet with a Reuters news crew on a passerby near the town of Dadu on Thursday.

The flood swept homes, businesses, infrastructure and roads. Standing and stored crops were destroyed, and nearly two million acres (809,371 hectares) of farmland were flooded.

Floods in Pakistan 'caused by monsoon on steroids,' UN chief says urgent appeal

The government says 33 million people, or 15% of the 220 million population, are affected.

The National Disaster Management Authority said about 480,030 people were displaced and cared for in camps, but even those who did not leave their homes were in danger.

“More than three million children need humanitarian assistance and are at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition due to the most severe flooding in Pakistan’s recent history,” the UN children’s agency warned.

The World Health Organization said more than 6.4 million people urgently need humanitarian assistance.

Aid began to arrive by planes loaded with food, tents and medicine, mostly from China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Aid agencies have asked the government to allow food imports from neighboring India over a largely closed border, which has been a front line between nuclear-armed rivals for decades.

The government has not indicated its willingness to open the border to Indian food imports.

CNN’s Angela Dewan and Azaz Syed contributed to the news.

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