Pakistan's Floods Reach Southern Province Of Sindh

The floods that began in the northwest part of Pakistan keep pushing south, and have reached the southern-most province of Sindh. As water rushed by, the city of Sukkur in central Pakistan was spared as a series of canals diverted the floodwaters to the surrounding countryside. It's a small victory for a country where millions have been displaced.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer, in for Steve Inskeep.

In Pakistan, the floods that began in the northwest part of the country keep pushing south, and have reached the southernmost province of Sindh. As water rushed by, the city of Sukkur - one of the major cities in that province - was spared, as a series of canals diverted the floodwaters to the surrounding countryside. It's a small victory in a country where millions of people have been displaced.

For more, we now turn to NPR's Julie McCarthy, who is in Sukkur.

Good morning, Julie.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Tell us where you are right now and what you're seeing.

MCCARTHY: Well, I'm sitting on banks of the Indus River, this same river that kept the city chieftains, the administrators up for nine nights straight in a mad vigil to try to shore up the embankments and repair holes in the dikes. They managed to do that. But they - in the process, they described the sound of the river. They say it sounded like some sort of creature from the deep as it came through here.

I'm looking at the barrage, this famous Sukkur barrage. You mentioned it regulates things here. At one time, it was thought to be a wonder of the world, and it proved to be, in some respects here, because it regulated the flow of the water out.

We're upstream at this point. The danger's passed here. As it roared through this city, the river roared through it a million cubic feet deep per second, and now it's accumulating downstream, where the danger is growing, evacuations are still underway. Sukkur may be out of the woods, but the province of Sindh is not.

WERTHEIMER: Tell us how Sukkur was saved by those canals. What happened?

MCCARTHY: Well, the Sukkur barrage, which is this massive architectural, almost looks like a massive aqueduct, regulates six to seven major irrigation canals. It's the heart of this complex irrigation scheme here, and it helps irrigate seven million acres of what is mostly desert land here. You know, Linda, if you sat here today, you wouldn't know there was a flood. That's what the weather's like. Things become immediately parched. But what - as it turned out, the water was channeled, and even though it was dispersed through these canals, the embankments of some of those canals and the river downstream did breach.

In fact, the chief administrator here in Sukkur told us last night that there was a small breach, 30 feet wide, that became two miles wide, just inundating millions of acres and affecting four million people here and displacing some two million more.

WERTHEIMER: But basically, the water went into the canals and out into the farmland?

MCCARTHY: Yeah. So you had the canals that were full and overflowing. You had embankments that were being breached naturally, and you had tons of rainfall. So you had three events kind of converging to create a huge amount of water here - this Linda, in a place that has had a drought for 17 years. So an extraordinary turn of fortunes for Sindh province.

WERTHEIMER: So is there any prediction about when the flooding will crest, when this whole business will be over?

MCCARTHY: Well, the predictions, perhaps in the next 10 days. We've got about 400, 500, 600 kilometers left before the Indus River dumps into the Arabian Sea. They're very carefully watching another barrage downstream called the Kotri Barrage. It is - the water there is rising. They are evacuating people, 100,000 people over the weekend, in the 24-hour period were evacuating. So they're waiting for things to crest. While, you know, there's the huge force of the river, it does take days for things to accumulate. So we may be looking at this disaster sort of running its course for another 10 days here.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Julie McCarthy, reporting on the flooding in Sukkur in Pakistan.

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