In flood-stricken Pakistan, where an unprecedented monsoon season has killed hundreds of people, the rains now threaten a famed archaeological site dating back 4,500 years.
The ruins of Mohenjo-daro, located in southern Sindh province near the Indus River, and a Unesco world heritage site, are considered among the best preserved urban settlements in south Asia. They were discovered in 1922, and mystery still surrounds the disappearance of its civilisation, which coincided with those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
The recent flooding has not directly hit Mohenjo-daro but the record-breaking rains have inflicted damage on the ruins, said Ahsan Abbasi, the site’s curator. “Several big walls which were built nearly 5,000 years ago have collapsed because of the monsoon rains,” Abbasi said.
He said dozens of construction workers under the supervision of archaeologists had started the repair work. Abbasi did not give an estimated cost of the damage.
The site’s landmark “Buddhist stupa”, a large hemispherical structure associated with worship, meditation and burial, remains intact, Abbasi said. But the downpours have damaged some outer walls and also some larger walls separating individual rooms or chambers.
Abbasi said the civilisation at Mohenjo-daro, also known as “Mound of the Dead” in the local Sindhi language, built an elaborate drainage system, which had been critical in flooding in the past.
Though the floods have touched all of Pakistan, Sindh province has been among the worst hit. On Monday, army engineers made a second cut into an embankment at Lake Manchar, Pakistan’s largest freshwater lake, to release rising waters in the hope of saving the nearby city of Sehwan from major flooding.
Water from the lake has already inundated dozens of nearby villages, forcing hundreds of families to leave their homes in a hurry.
Rescue operations continued on Tuesday with troops and volunteers using helicopters and boats to get people out of flooded areas and to the nearest relief camps. Tens of thousands of people are already living in such camps, and thousands more have taken shelter on roadsides on higher ground.
Ghulam Sabir, 52, from the outskirts of Sehwan, said on he had left his home three days ago after authorities told them to evacuate. “I took my family members with me and came to this … safer place,” he said. He echoed complaints of several other villagers that no government help had reached them yet. Sabir said he did not know whether his home had collapsed or not.
The prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, urged Pakistanis in televised remarks on Tuesday to donate generously to flood victims, most of whom are relying on government help to survive. Sharif has repeatedly asked the international community to send more aid to the flood victims. He has said Pakistan is facing a climate change-induced tragedy.
The UN refugee agency said it had handed over thousands of tents and other emergency items to the Sindh government.
Last week the UN secretary general, António Guterres, called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” through the crisis. He plans to visit flood-hit areas on 9 September. According to Pakistani officials, Guterres will travel to Sindh, but it is unclear whether he will visit the archaeological site.