Sardar Sarfaraz of the Pakistan Meteorological Ministry said on Thursday that there were 16 such incidents in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region in 2022, compared to only five or six in previous years.
Such accidents happen after glaciers melt due to: [a] “Rising temperatures,” Sarfraz told Reuters, adding that “climate change is the cause of such things.”
Melting glaciers are one of the clearest and most visible signs of the climate crisis and one of its immediate effects.
It is not yet clear how the current flood crisis in Pakistan is related to the melting of glaciers. But unless global warming emissions are curbed, Sarfraz 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 effects of climate change will only increase,” he said.
That vulnerability has been evident for months, with record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in the country’s northern mountains leading to floods that have killed at least 1,191 people, including 399 children, since mid-June.
Fear of new floods
Southern Pakistan braced for more flooding on Thursday as the Indus River overflows, adding to the devastation in a country already engulfed in a third of disasters caused by climate change.
The United Nations has asked for $160 million to help with what it called an “unprecedented climate disaster.”
“We are on high alert as water flowing from the northern floods is expected to enter the province in the coming days,” Sindh provincial spokesman Murtaza Wahab told Reuters.
A flow of about 600,000 cubic feet per second is expected to strengthen the Indus and test flood defenses, Wahab said.
Pakistan received nearly 190% more rain than the 30-year average in the June–August quarter, totaling 390.7 mm (15.38 in).
Sindh, with a population of 50 million, has been hardest hit, with a 466% increase in rain compared to the 30-year average.
Some parts of the county resemble an inland sea with only occasional patches of trees or dams breaking the surface of murky floods.
Hundreds of families have sought refuge on the roads, the only dry land threatening many of them.
Villagers rushed to meet a Reuters news team passing along a road near Dadu on Thursday, begging for food or other help.
The floods washed away homes, businesses, infrastructure and roads. Existing and stored crops were destroyed and nearly two million acres (809,371 hectares) of farmland were flooded.
The government says 33 million people, or 15% of the 220 million people, have been affected.
The National Disaster Management Authority said about 480,030 people have been displaced and are being cared for in camps, but even those who were not forced to leave their homes are at risk.
The United Nations Children’s Agency warned that “more than three million children are in need of humanitarian assistance and are at increased risk of water-borne diseases, drowning and malnutrition as a result of the worst floods in Pakistan’s modern history.”
The World Health Organization said more than 6.4 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
Aid began arriving by plane loaded with food, tents and medicine, mainly from China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Aid groups have asked the government to allow food imports from neighboring India across a largely closed border that has been the front line between the two nuclear-armed rivals for decades.
The government has not indicated its willingness to open the border to imports of Indian food.
CNN’s Angela Diwan and Azaz Sayed contributed to this report.