Flash floods sweep away man, body not founds

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Jul 7, 2013.

Islamabad – One man was swept away by torrential rainwater in a drain in France Colony, sector F-7/4, late on Saturday night as the first of the monsoon rains battered the federal capital.

Somi, 19, son of Ilyas Masih, and three other men were trying to remove a tree that broke and fell into the drain, and was clogging the flow of storm water, when the incident happened, Ishtiaq Masih, Somi’s paternal uncle, said.

The incident occurred around 11:15pm on Saturday night, Ishtiaq said. Somi’s body had not been recovered by the time of filing of this report.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) recorded 105 millimetre rain at Saidpur in Islamabad by Sunday morning. More rains are expected on Sunday night.

The storm water drain, which eventually falls in to the Nullah Leh at Katarian in Rawalpindi, cuts through the France Colony. Houses in France Colony that are built right on the edge of the drain got flooded when the rain started on Saturday night.

Colony residents said the men had noticed that fallen tree was stuck against a small walkway bridge built by the locals over the drain. The tree was blocking the water’s flow and diverting it to flood the houses. Somi and his cousin Bobby, 18, were swept away by the strong currents of rainwater as they tried to set the around six-foot log free.

Bobby was rescued by locals but Somi was taken away by the gushing water before they could intervene. Somi is the second of three siblings. He was learning maintenance work under his father.

Ishtiaq said they had immediately complained to Rescue 1122 and Rescue 15 but they did not get any immediate help from the authorities.

Lajer Masih, a France Colony resident, said a 4-member rescue team from the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Fire and Rescue unit came to the scene around 2:30am but they only offered to provide light for the search party. “They were not willing to go into the water for search and rescue,” Lajer said.

However, Haider Ali, assistant sub-inspector of Kohsar Police, said police and rescue officers responded to the call in the early hours of Sunday morning. He said the search and rescue efforts were hampered by the fast flow of water and the darkness.

Eight CDA divers started a search for Somi’s body on Sunday morning around 11am, Ali said. He said Navy’s divers will also start searching for the body early Monday morning.

Ijazul Hassan, a representative of the cell, said the CDA has cleared the drains and streams around the Islamabad before the monsoon season. But France Colony residents, and people at a Christian slum in F-6 which is also located right next to a storm water drain, denied that the CDA staff ever showed up to clean the drains.

The residents said they had been themselves discarding trash away from the drains through neighbourhood committees.

Hassan said most of the slums have narrowed the stream beds by building illegal structures on top of the streams. He said they are warned every season to remove the structures and not to dump trash in the streams.

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