Lightning, rains kill 36 people in Pakistan as authorities declare a state of emergency in southwest

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In this photo provided by the Rescue 1122 Emergency Department, rescue workers and locals gather to clear the rubble of a house partially damaged by landslide due to heavy rainfall in Matta, a town in Swat Valley, Pakistan on April 14. (AP)

ISLAMABAD, April 15, (AP): Lightning and heavy rains have killed at least 36 people, mostly farmers, across Pakistan in the past three days, officials said Monday, as authorities in the country’s southwest declared a state of emergency.
Most of the deaths occurred when lightning struck farmers harvesting wheat and rains caused houses to collapse in eastern Punjab province, said Arfan Kathia, a spokesman for the provincial disaster management authority. He said more rains were expected this week.
Rains, which also lashed the capital Islamabad, killed seven people in southwestern Baluchistan province over the weekend, and eight others died in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. Authorities in Baluchistan declared a state of emergency.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in televised remarks that he had ordered authorities to provide relief aid in regions hit by rains. Pakistan’s water reservoirs would improve because of the rains, he said, while expressing concern over the deaths and damage.
Heavy flooding from seasonal rains in Afghanistan has killed 33 people and injured 27 others in the past three days, according to Abdullah Janan Saiq, the Taliban’s spokesman for the State Ministry for Natural Disaster Management.
More than 600 houses were either damaged or destroyed while around 200 livestock died. The flooding also damaged large areas of agricultural land and more than 85 kilometers (53 miles) of roads, he said.
He said authorities in Afghanistan had provided aid to nearly 23,000 families, and that flash floods were reported in 20 out of the country’s 34 provinces.
Rafay Alam, a Pakistani environmental expert, said that such heavy April rainfall is unusual. “Two years ago, Pakistan witnessed a heat wave in March and April and now we are witnessing rains and it is all of because of climate change, which had caused heavy flooding in 2022,” he said.
In 2022, downpours had swelled rivers and at one point inundated one-third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damage.

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