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Floodwaters sweep towards another Pakistan town

Southern Australia hit by worst floods in 10 years
Sydney (AFP) Sept 5, 2010 - Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard urged people to prepare for evacuation as river levels rose in the country's flooded south on Sunday, threatening hundreds more homes. Soldiers were called in and a natural disaster declared in Victoria state after intense rain pushed rivers to breaking point, flooding at least 250 homes and isolating entire towns, emergency officials said. Scores of homes were under water and tens of thousands of people without power after drenching rains produced the worst flooding in more than a decade. "The storms have caused extensive damage to property, forcing many residents to leave their homes. Thousands of others are without power," Gillard said. "In some areas flood waters will continue to rise so residents should continue to monitor the local forecasts and be prepared to evacuate if necessary," she added.

State Premier John Brumby said the army would help sand-bag the worst affected areas and assist with evacuations, warning that some rivers would not reach their peak for a number of days and the worst was yet to come. "The real issue now is the next 36 to 48 hours... those floodwaters will continue to increase and continue to move," said Brumby. "We expect the number of houses (flooded) to increase ... tonight and tomorrow so there could be hundreds more that are affected," he added. Some areas had received more than 200 millimetres (eight inches) of rain and the State Emergency Service (SES) said it was the region's worst flooding since the 1990s.

Hundreds of people slept on classroom floors after being evacuated from their homes and the SES said it had received more than 2,000 calls since midnight Saturday. About 40,000 homes were without power and the sewage system in some towns had also been overloaded, spilling effluent into the surging waters. Skiers were stranded at mountaintop resorts overnight as the wild weather triggered landslides. Officials used a new SMS and telephone warning system, developed in response to last year's Black Saturday firestorm, which killed 173 people and razed entire towns in the state. The Bureau of Meteorology cancelled its severe weather warning as rains eased but said flood warnings remained in place for several areas.
by Staff Writers
Karachi (AFP) Sept 5, 2010
Pakistani authorities were Sunday trying to protect another town from floodwaters in southern Sindh province, as the nation continues to grapple with its worst natural disaster in living memory.

A month after monsoons caused devastating floods throughout the country, submerging an area the size of England, eight million people remain dependent on handouts for their survival, which many say are too slow coming.

Surging floodwaters continue to threaten towns in southern Sindh, where 19 of its 23 districts have been deluged and more than one million people displaced.

"We are trying our best to protect Johi town, threatened by ravaging floodwaters," district administration chief Iqbal Memon told AFP.

The town, which is 315 kilometres (195 miles) north of Karachi, has a population of 60,000 and officials fear that floodwaters will breach surrounding embankments unless they are quickly strengthened.

"The floodwaters are fast heading towards Johi town after inundating most parts of Khairpur Nathan Shah town and Mehar town and several surrounding villages in Dadu district," he said.

"We are right now employing all available means to strengthen the protective embankments around Johi but the threat still remains," he said, adding that 70 percent of the town's population had already fled to safer areas.

Memon said 90 percent of the people of Khairpur Nathan Shah, Mehar town and surrounding villages, which had a joint population of around 300,000 had fled to nearby towns that have been spared by floods.

"However, a few thousand people who remain stranded in Khairpur Nathan Shah, Mehar town and surrounding villages are being evacuated to safety by naval boats and helicopters".

"I have been stranded here with at least 10 other villagers since yesterday after water inundated our village and we immediately need help and food," Usman Qureshi, resident of a small village near Khairpur Nathan Shah village, said.

Qureshi told AFP by mobile phone: "We need help, water and food... We beg you to please contact rescuers and ask them to evacuate us," said Qureshi, who took shelter at the lone two-storey building in the village.

Meanwhile, army troops rescued 300 people from the flooded Jati town and 47 from Khairpur Nathan Shah to safer places, the military said in a statement.

While the international community has donated 700 million dollars, domestic anger has been mounting against the widely unpopular civilian government, which has come under fire for its handling of the crisis.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday told the lower house of the federal parliament that relief efforts would be extended to six months.

He said that early recovery phase shall be completed by December 30, while damage and need assessment by World Bank and Asian Development Bank would be completed by September 30.

The World Bank has raised flood aid to Pakistan to one billion dollars, while the IMF has approved 450 million dollars in emergency financing to help the nation cope.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference on Thursday appealed to Muslims everywhere to direct their zakat tithes -- donations required under Islam -- to relief for Pakistan, rather than leave Pakistanis "alone to their fate".

However, the UN has warned that the slow pace of aid pledges could impede relief operations and says Pakistan faces a triple threat to food supplies -- with seeds, crops and incomes hit.

The floods have ruined 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of rich farmland, and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said farmers urgently needed seeds to plant for next year's crops.

Prime Minister Gilani warned Wednesday that the country faced inflation of up to 20 percent and slower growth because of devastating floods, which wiped out crops and killed 1,760 people.

Disaster officials have said that number of deaths will likely rise "significantly" when the missing are accounted for.

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Pakistan landowners accused of diverting floods to villages
Islamabad (AFP) Sept 2, 2010
Wealthy landowners in Pakistan have allegedly diverted waters from the country's devastating floods away from their own properties and into villages, the country's UN ambassador said Thursday. Abdullah Hussain Haroon called for an inquiry into claims that embankments had been allowed to burst to protect commercial crops. "Over the years, one has seen with the lack of floods, those areas ... read more

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