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Flood-hit Pakistan's PM cancels US visit
by Staff Writers
Islamabad (AFP) Sept 16, 2011

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Friday cancelled a visit to the United States to address the UN General Assembly because of widespread new floods, his office said.

Heavy rains in the fertile southern province of Sindh have caused flooding that has so far killed 289 people and forced 400,000 others to leave their homes, one year after the country suffered its worst-ever floods.

The prime minister has "called off his visit to New York to address United Nation General Assembly due to epidemic situation because of heavy rains and floods in Sindh province", a statement issued in English by his office said.

The statement said Gilani had instructed Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to attend the UN session on his behalf while he would visit flood-affected areas in the south from Saturday where mass relief efforts are ongoing.

The government was last year pilloried by flood victims who accused civilian authorities of a delayed and inadequate response to the disaster, which was met with nearly one billion dollars in foreign donations.

President Asif Ali Zardari met with ridicule when he failed to return home from summits in Britain and France last summer as monsoon rains triggered the floods, which affected 21 million Pakistanis.

The latest heavy rains that began falling in late August have so far affected at least 5.3 million people and deluged 1.7 million acres of arable land, government officials say.

Gilani's cancellation also comes as ties between Pakistan and the United States waver over their counterterrorism efforts along the South Asian nation's lawless northwestern border, where Taliban-linked militants hold rear bases.

The foreign ministry on Thursday said a warning by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, threatening unilateral US retaliation against insurgents on Pakistani soil, was "out of line" with their allied efforts.

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Canada braces for Hurricane Maria
Ottawa (AFP) Sept 16, 2011 - Canada braced for Hurricane Maria early Friday, issuing a warning for southeastern Newfoundland and predicting the category one storm would make landfall by the afternoon.

Environment Canada, the country's official weather service, predicted strong winds and heavy rainfall across the Atlantic coast, warning of "far-reaching impacts of the combined weather systems well away from the track."

The US National Hurricane Center said Maria was packing winds of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour, with little change in strength expected until it hits land Friday afternoon.

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26 die in Indian floods, 200,000 evacuated
Bhubaneswar, India (AFP) Sept 15, 2011
At least 26 people have died and nearly 200,000 have been evacuated as a result of massive flooding in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, a minister said on Thursday. The floods were triggered by torrential monsoon rains across Orissa, causing water levels to breach river banks, prompting a huge rescue operation in which helicopters dropped off emergency supplies to help the stranded. " ... read more

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