Rainfall ravages Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda, submerges cities, exposes residents to animals’ attacks
In recent times global warming and change in climate conundrum are causing a spike in rainfall in parts of the world leading to floods wreaking various degrees of havocs.
CNN reports Thursday that one of the world’s oldest preserved human settlements has been significantly damaged by torrential rain in Pakistan as the country battles the worst floods in its history.
Moenjodaro (also styled Mohenjo-daro), a World Heritage site in the Indus River Valley 508 kilometers (316 miles) from Karachi, was built in the Bronze Age, some 5,000 years ago.
“Unfortunately we witnessed the mass destruction at the site,” reads a letter from the Cultural, Tourism, & Antiquities Department of Singh state sent to UNESCO and signed by curator Ihsan Ali Abbasi and architect Naveed Ahmed Sangah.
The letter adds the site was being used as temporary accommodation for surrounding residents whose own homes had flooded.
“On humanitarian grounds we gave them shelter in our quarters, parking areas, shops (and) ground floor of the museum,” the letter explains.
Currently, an estimated one-third of Pakistan is underwater after monsoon downpours combined with water from melting glaciers.
Most of Moenjodaro’s structures, which were discovered in the 1920s, are above ground and susceptible to environmental damage. Images included in the letter from the site’s guardians show collapsed brick walls and layers of mud covering the site.
The letter explains some of the immediate actions the site team has taken to mitigate the flood damage, like bringing in water pumps, repairing brickwork and cleaning drains.
But it’s clear that these measures will not be enough.
Abbasi and Sangah end their letter by asking for 100 million Pakistani rupees ($45 million) to cover the costs of full repairs.
Sadly, the conservators of Moenjodaro have known for some time that flooding could pose a serious risk to the site.
Its official UNESCO listing notes that Singh state — which is officially tasked with maintaining Moenjodaro — has flagged the issue before and warned that “a breach of the dam upstream would cause catastrophic damage.”
Moenjodaro’s significance as a historical and architectural site cannot be underestimated. When it was added to UNESCO’s register in 1980, the organization wrote that Moenjodaro “bears exceptional testimony to the Indus civilization,” comprising “the most ancient planned city on the Indian subcontinent.”
During its heyday, the city was a bustling metropolis. There were markets, public baths, a sewage system, and a Buddhist stupa, mostly constructed out of sun-baked brick.
In their letter, Abbasi and Sangah express concern that Moenjodaro could be added to the list of UNESCO sites in danger, which the preservation body updates periodically to highlight historic places that are at severe risk of ruin.
Sites currently on this list include Florida’s Everglades National Park, which is facing significant environmental challenges, and the city of Liverpool, England, whose historic city center is considered at risk from urbanization.
At least 16 persons have been reported dead as heavy rains trigger landslides in Uganda, according to CNN and Reuters.
The report has it that at least 16 people died in western Uganda after heavy rains in the Kasese district on Tuesday night caused a landslide early Wednesday, according to tweets from the Uganda Red Cross.
Most of the recovered bodies were women and children, the red cross said. Six people were also injured and are receiving treatment at a local hospital, the red cross spokesperson Irene Nakasiita tweeted.
Emergency workers have been shoveling through mud in search of survivors. Kasese district, where the disaster occurred, is prone to landslides, especially during the rainy season, because it sits in the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains that straddle the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
After a prolonged drought, heavy rains have fallen on much of Uganda since late July, causing deaths and flooding, and the destruction of crops, homes, and infrastructure.
In July, flooding caused by heavy rains killed at least 24 people in Mbale district in eastern Uganda.
The country’s weather agency had warned it would be hit by unusually strong and destructive rains in the August-December season and advised people living in mountainous areas to be vigilant or evacuate to safer areas.
Many parts of Uganda are prone to flooding after heavy rains, but the whole country is vulnerable to natural disasters.
More than 300,000 people have been affected by floods and landslides in Uganda’s eastern and western regions, according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. An estimated 65,000 people have been displaced, the report added.
Associated Press reports that the vast freshwater Lake Baringo buzzing with birds and aquatic life in the semi-arid volcanic region of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley had long been an oasis. It attracted fishers and international tourists to the community, about a five-hour drive from Nairobi.
But over the past decade Lake Baringo has doubled in size, due primarily to heavy rainfall tied to climate change, according to scientists, and its fast-rising waters are increasingly becoming a menace. The expanding lake has swallowed up homes and hotels and brought in crocodiles and hippos that have turned up on people’s doorsteps and in classrooms.
“It was not like this in the past,” Lawan Keben said. “People would move when the water moves, but it would go back soon enough.”
Keben had never imagined leaving.
Then the lake took away almost everything.
Women prepare fish to be sold in a local market after a catch by fishermen at Lake Baringo in Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
Crocodiles come close to women preparing fish to be sold in a local market on the edge of Lake Baringo after a catch by fishermen in Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
In her last moments in Kampi ya Samaki, Winnie Keben was washing off garden dirt in Lake Baringo’s refreshing waters. It had been a day of working her maize fields with her husband. Evening was falling. Her mind was on getting back to the house to make dinner.
Then something moved.
“No sooner had I bent down to wash my right leg, than I saw a crocodile pop up from the waters,” she said. “I screamed so loudly but unfortunately, I fell into the lake.”
The crocodile dragged her into deeper water as she tried to fight it off. Her husband ran from the fields toward her screams. But she was struggling to stay above the surface.
She managed to reach her hand above the water and wiggle her fingers, hoping her husband, now at the shore, would see them.
Laban Keben saw, jumped in and grabbed her but the ferocious animal held on. Laban tried again. And again. After his third attempt, his wife and the mother of their children lost consciousness, he said.
“I saw her dying, leaving me behind,” he said.
He thought of their daughter, barely six months old, and their two other children.
Not knowing what else to do, he started screaming for help. Another man ran over with a machete and struck at the crocodile, Laban said, and suddenly, it swam away, leaving Winnie’s limp body behind.
Her leg was nothing but bones with hanging flesh, said Laban, who along with local residents carried Winnie past flooded roads to the nearest paved one where vehicles could get her to medical care. But at the hospital in the next town, doctors said they were not equipped to treat such a severe injury.
Two hospitals later, she feared she would not survive.
“I told my husband to pick up my children and to take them to my mum, as I knew I was not going to make it,” she said.
Doctors ended up amputating the leg to save her life. Her mom stayed by her bedside until she was discharged from the hospital.
The family was forced to sell their chickens, and goats to cover her medical costs.
But while she was healing, an incessant rain continued to fall. The lake took still more from the Kebens. It flooded their home and farmland.
They left their community, the final loss.
A resident from another village, Meisori, learned of their ordeal and offered to take them in, a gesture of kindness for which she is grateful.
But leaving Kampi ya Samaki, where her husband and children were born, still hurts.
“I loved my place very much, as I could do farming with my husband and raise money for food and school fees,” Winnie said.
With only one leg, Winnie said she no longer can farm. Her husband earns a meager living digging pit latrines and working at area farms to support their growing family. She gave birth to her sixth child last month.
“Now we are land beggars,” she said.
Baringo is one of ten lakes in Kenya’s Rift Valley that have been expanding over the past decade. The entire Eastern African rift system, which stretches south to Mozambique, and the Western Rift – all the way to Uganda – are also affected. The rainfed waters have submerged villages and islands and brought the fierce Nile crocodiles face-to-face with residents.
The rising lake waters have displaced more than 75,000 households, according to a 2021 report on the expanding lakes by Kenya’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry and the United Nations Development Program.
Flooding around Lake Baringo has been among the most severe, according to the report, with more than 3,000 households destroyed.
Lake Baringo remains an important source of freshwater for villagers, livestock, fisheries, and wildlife. But scientists fear it could someday merge with a large salt lake not far away, the also-expanding Lake Bogoria, contaminating the freshwater.
Winnie Keben helps her neighbor’s kids and her own to do homework as others take a nap at Meisori village in Baringo County, Kenya, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Keben lost her leg to a crocodile attack, and that accident plus the loss of her home to rising water drove her and her family from their village. (AP Photo/ Brian Inganga)
Keben remembers when the shoreline was a short walk from their home and the hippos and crocodiles stayed deep inside the lake.
“They never attacked people or animals,” Keben said. “Today they attack everything.”
Keben, 28, is still haunted by her attack a decade ago. She has not returned to her family’s village — even for a brief visit — and with good reason. The risks of such attacks have only increased: Since she left, more crocodiles and hippos have turned up in Kampi ya Samaki.
It’s not rare now to see village children scarred by sharp teeth marks.
Others, like Keben, have lost limbs, and an unknown number have died.
A 10-year-old boy was recently dragged off by a hippo and has not been found.
Keben said she doesn’t plan to ever return to Kampi ya Samaki. Though she longs for the community.
“That is the place I called home,” she said, her voice still filled with pain.