Glacial lakes are on the rise in Pakistan as the country grapples with devastating floods

The country’s chief meteorologist warned that this year alone, Pakistan experienced three times the usual amount of lake glacier eruptions – a sudden intrusion of water from a lake fed by melting glaciers – which could cause catastrophic floods.

Sardar Sarfaraz of Pakistan’s 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 occur after glaciers melt due to [a] “Rising temperatures,” Sarfraz told Reuters, adding that “climate change is the root cause of such things.”

Melting glaciers is one of the clearest and most visible signs of the climate crisis and one of its direct consequences.

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 climate change effects will only increase,” he said.

Pakistan is responsible for Less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gasesAccording to EU data, it is the eighth most vulnerable country to the climate crisis, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.

That vulnerability has been visible 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.

A car passes through a partially collapsed section of the Karakoram Expressway in Pakistan that was damaged after a glacial lake exploded in the country's Gilgit-Baltistan region.

Fears of new floods

Southern Pakistan on Thursday braced for more flooding as the Indus River rushes into the river, exacerbating the devastation in a country already engulfed by a third of the disaster caused by climate change.

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The United Nations has appealed for $160 million to help in what it called an “unprecedented climate catastrophe”.

“We are on high alert as water flowing from the northern floods is expected to enter the province over 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 amplify the Indus, testing its 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 rains increasing 466% compared to the 30-year average.

Some parts of the county look like an inland sea with only occasional patches of trees or elevated roads fracturing the surface of murky floodwaters.

Hundreds of families have taken refuge on the roads, the only dry land looming for many of them.

A man searches for salvageable belongings from his flooded house in Shikarpur district of Pakistan's Sindh province on Thursday.
This aerial photograph, taken on September 1, 2022, shows flooded residential areas in Dera Allah Yar town in Jafarabad District, Balochistan Province.

Villagers rushed to meet a Reuters news team passing by on 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 agricultural land were inundated.

Pakistan floods caused by & # 39 ;  monsoons on steroids, & # 39;  The Secretary-General of the United Nations in an urgent appeal

The government says 33 million people, or 15% of the 220 million people, have been affected.

The National Disaster Management Authority said some 480,030 people have been displaced and are being cared for in the camps, but even those who were not forced to leave their homes are in danger.

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 due to the most severe floods in Pakistan’s modern history.”

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The World Health Organization said more than 6.4 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Aid began arriving on 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, across a largely closed border that has for decades been the frontline between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

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

CNN’s Angela Diwan and Azaz Sayed contributed to this report.

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