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Desperate Pakistan flood survivors clamour for aid

Pakistani flood survivors search through their destroyed homes after flash floods in Gulabad on August 4, 2010. Devastating floods have swept away farmland and devastated livestock in Pakistan's northwest, costing farmers millions of dollars and sparking demands for government compensation. The land was some of the most fertile in the country: rich soil nurtured sugarcane, maize, tobacco and vegetables, fed communities and carpeted a lush landscape watered by gushing rivers and framed by mountains. Photo courtesy AFP.Pakistan says Chinese, Japanese visitors rescued
Islamabad (AFP) Aug 4, 2010 - The Pakistani military said Wednesday it had rescued about 600 "tourists," including Chinese and Japanese nationals, who had been stranded in flood-hit areas of the country's northwest. The military said it was using 40 helicopters and 450 boats in a massive rescue operation that has been concentrated in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which is facing the worst floods in 80 years. Ninety-five Chinese and 12 Japanese were rescued from Kalam, along with about 600 "tourists," the military said. Kalam is a resort in Swat which recently reopened to travellers after a major military operation launched last year designed to purge the scenic valley of Pakistani Taliban.

The Japanese embassy confirmed that visitors had been stranded due to communication problems triggered by floods in the mountains. "All have been rescued. No Japanese tourists are left there now," the embassy's press officer, Sajid Abbasi, told AFP. The Japanese travellers had gone to Kohistan and other hilly areas, he said. No comments were immediately available from the Chinese embassy. The July 29 floods have caused widespread destruction in the northwest killing hundreds of people and uprooting an estimated 3.5 million others. So far more than 54,000 stranded people have been rescued from flood-hit areas and moved to the safer places, the military said.
by Staff Writers
Charsadda, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 4, 2010
Desperate survivors crushed into relief centres Wednesday after Pakistan's worst floods in living memory as the country braced for more storms that threaten to deepen the humanitarian crisis.

With over three million people hit by the flooding, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is to chair a special cabinet meeting to speed up the relief work and estimate the damage -- expected to run into millions of dollars.

Record rains last week triggered floods and landslides that washed away entire villages and ruined farmland in one of the country's most impoverished and volatile regions, already hard hit by Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence.

The international community has mobilised with offers of aid after the flooding that aid workers say has killed 1,500 people and affected 3.2 million, including 1.4 million children, according to UN and Pakistani figures.

"This is a serious humanitarian disaster," the UN humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, told AFP, saying that discussions were under way to determine whether the situation warranted a fresh appeal for donor aid.

Anger was at boiling point among impoverished survivors complaining they had been abandoned by the government after their livelihoods were swept away and protesting at a "joy ride" visit to Europe by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistan has issued new flood warnings as the rains spread across the country, threatening to compound the misery of hundreds of thousands of victims. Many have fled disaster areas, their belongings piled into donkey carts and cars, or taken refuge in mosques.

"We are facing severe shortages of food and medicine. People need food, they need medicine. We fear they will be die from hunger if not provided on time," information minister in the northwest, Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters.

The United Nations said clean drinking water and sanitation were urgently needed to stop disease spreading after Pakistan's worst floods in 80 years following relentless monsoon rains.

UN World Food Programme (WFP) executive director Josette Sheeran said the agency had was working to hand out supplies to 250,000 people during the week, saying more than 1.8 million people were in need of food assistance.

"Access remains a major challenge to mounting distributions, with many areas effectively cut off," WFP said.

Nadeem Ahmad, chairman of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority, estimated that roughly three million people were affected -- 1.5 million in the northwest and the same number in the central province Punjab.

Authorities in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa issued an alert to people living around Warsak Dam, one of the country's biggest dams and lying outside Peshawar, as water levels rose.

Pakistan's weather bureau forecast widespread rains in the southern province of Sindh, Pakistani-held Kashmir and southwestern Baluchistan, as well as the hardest hit areas in the northwest and Punjab over the next two days.

The military, Pakistan's most powerful institution, said more than 54,000 people had been rescued from flood-hit areas and moved to safer places, with 40 helicopters and 450 army boats mobilised.

The United States, which has pledged 10 million dollars in aid, said it was sending in army helicopters to help with the relief effort.

Canada announced two million dollars in emergency aid while China said it was sending in 1.5 million dollars of supplies, in addition to pledges of aid from the United Nations and Britain among others.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity on a UN terror blacklist and considered a front for the group blamed by India for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, said it was sending in 10 truck-loads of goods and nine medical teams to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A trail of destruction lined the road from Peshawar to Charsada, one of the worst hit areas, where houses and shops were razed to the ground Wednesday as if a massive earthquake had jolted the region, said an AFP reporter.

Anwer Kazmi, a spokesman for Pakistan's largest charity the Edhi Foundation said it had reports that more than 1,500 people had died, although officials fear the toll could still rise further.

The United Nations has said around 980,000 people had lost their homes or been temporarily displaced.

But 2,000 people, including women in burqas, who thronged the home of a local politician to receive food items in Shah Alam village near Charsadda said they had received no assistance from the government, only local families.

Falak Naz, 28 was visibly shaken. "I am totally helpless now. I built a small house with a lot of effort. It is destroyed. How will I repair it? Will there be any government help? These questions keep haunting my mind," he said.

earlier related report
Flood-devastated Pakistan braces for more storms
Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 4, 2010 - Pakistan holds crisis talks Wednesday as the country braces for more storms that threaten to deepen a humanitarian disaster after the worst floods in living memory.

With over three million people hit by the flooding, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is to chair an emergency cabinet meeting to speed up the relief work and estimate the damage -- expected to run into millions of dollars.

Record rains last week triggered floods and landslides that washed away entire villages and ruined farmland in one of the country's most impoverished and volatile regions, already hard hit by Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence.

The international community has mobilised with offers of aid after the flooding that has claimed the lives of up to 1,500 people and affected 3.2 million, including 1.4 million children, according to UN and Pakistani figures.

"This is a serious humanitarian disaster," the UN humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, told AFP, saying that discussions were under way to determine whether the situation warranted a fresh appeal for donor aid.

Anger was at boiling point among impoverished survivors complaining they had been abandoned by the government after their livelihoods were swept away and protesting at a "joy ride" visit to Europe by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistan has issued new flood warnings, threatening to compound the misery of hundreds of thousands of desperate victims. Many have been forced to flee disaster areas, their belongings piled into donkey carts and cars, or take refuge in mosques.

The United Nations said clean drinking water and sanitation were urgently needed to stop disease spreading after Pakistan's worst floods in 80 years following relentless monsoon rains.

"People immediately need food, water, shelter, health facilities, medicines and sanitation," UN World Food Programme spokesman Amjad Jamal told AFP.

Nadeem Ahmad, chairman of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority, estimated that roughly three million people were affected -- 1.5 million in the northwest and the same number in the central province Punjab.

Authorities in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa issued an alert to people living around Warsak Dam, one of the country's biggest dams and lying outside Peshawar, as water levels rose.

Pakistan's weather bureau forecast widespread rains in the southern province of Sindh, Punjab, Pakistani-held Kashmir, the hard-hit northwest and southwestern Baluchistan over the next three days.

Flash flooding was expected in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Baluchistan, it warned, with heavy thunderstorms in the capital Islamabad.

The military, Pakistan's most powerful institution, said more than 54,000 people had been rescued from flood-hit areas and moved to safer places, with 40 helicopters and 450 army boats mobilised.

The United States, which has pledged 10 million dollars in aid, said it was sending in army helicopters to help with the relief effort.

Canada announced two million dollars in emergency aid while China said it was sending in 1.5 million dollars of supplies, in addition to pledges of aid from the United Nations and Britain among others.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity on a UN terror blacklist and considered a front for the group blamed by India for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, said it was helping with the relief effort, sending in 10 truck-loads of goods and nine medical teams to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Survivors are living in desperate conditions under open skies or sheltering from heavy rains in mosques without clean drinking water and food.

The local government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has said up to 1,500 people have died as a result of the floods, although there are fears the toll could rise further.

The United Nations has also said around 980,000 people had lost their homes or been temporarily displaced.

Anger was growing among disgruntled survivors as Zardari pressed on with a visit to Europe -- including a trip to his family's stately home in the French countryside on Tuesday.

"Zardari should visit the flood-hit areas and take steps for the welfare of the stranded people instead of taking joy rides to France and the UK," said Sher Khan, 40, in Majuky Faqirabad, one of the worst affected villages.

Zardari arrives in London on Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister David Cameron this week, with a row over the British leader's comments accusing Pakistan of supporting terrorism top of the agenda.

Some British lawmakers of Pakistani origin pulled out of a planned lunch with the president amid anger that the trip was a waste of scarce money that could be better spent on flood relief.




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SHAKE AND BLOW
Pakistan flood victims slam Zardari 'joy ride' in Europe
Majuky Faqirabad, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 2, 2010
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zadari came under renewed fire Tuesday for visiting France and Britain while up to 3.2 million of his people suffer from the worst floods in decades. Devastating monsoon rains have killed up to 1,500 people and washed away entire villages in the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, submerging farmland, drowning livestock and now spreading across much of the co ... read more

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