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Pakistan PM calls for help as fresh rains hamper flood aid

Anger as Pakistani president addresses British rally
Birmingham, England (AFP) Aug 7, 2010 - Hundreds of protestors gathered to criticise President Asif Ali Zardari at a rally for British Pakistanis Saturday while millions struggled in the aftermath of floods back home. Zardari defended his trip to Britain despite Pakistan's worst-ever floods at an event for some 3,000 people in Birmingham, central England, including Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) members and leading figures in the British Pakistani community. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the venue, some holding placards reading "1000s dying, president is holidaying" and "Are the Zardaris enjoying England while Pakistan drowns?" And police said one man was escorted from the hall after a shoe was thrown at Zardari, while adding it did not land close to him. It has not yet been decided whether to press charges, a spokeswoman for the local force said.

Although journalists were barred from the event, a PPP spokesman told AFP afterwards that Zardari had defended his handling of the flooding and asked attendees to donate to the appeal to help victims. "He was saying that the prime minister is the chief executive because he's got all the powers, the Senate was in session, all the chief ministers were there, he was in touch with them over the phone," said Waheed Rasab, the PPP's coordinator for Britain. He added that although many people had not wanted Zardari to make the trip, the president had managed to build bridges with British Prime Minister David Cameron in a row over comments made on Pakistan's handling of terrorism. "There were many people who did not want him to clarify the misunderstanding of Mr Cameron," Rasab said.

"Now they have met, they have overcome the difficulties, he's sorted that misunderstanding and it will not happen again". Cameron triggered a diplomatic spat by suggesting that elements in Pakistan were promoting the "export of terror" during a recent visit to regional arch-rival India. Some 15 million people have been affected by the catastrophic floods in Pakistan and the UN estimates that around 1,600 have been killed. In Birmingham, Mohammed Khalil, a local official from the Tehreek-e-Insaf party headed by former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan, was among those protesting against Zardari.

"His own people are dying for food, there's calamity there," he told AFP. "He should be there organising for his own people. Instead he's here with so many people. The government is paying all the expense for that. That money should be spent on the people of Pakistan, not on himself." Zardari was accompanied in Birmingham by his daughter, Asifa Zardari Bhutto, and ministers.

His son Bilawal, the 21-year-old PPP chairman, had also been expected to attend but instead opened a donation point for flood victims at the Pakistan High Commission in London. The recent Oxford University graduate vehemently defended his father's visit to Europe during that event. "He's doing the best he can and what he thinks is best to help the people of Pakistan," Bhutto Zardari said. "His personal presence in Pakistan would not be able to raise this much money," he added, stressing that multi-million dollar donations had been made by France, Britain and Abu Dhabi on the way. "The floodwaters have devastated the lives of a people who have already suffered the most at the hands of terrorists. "This is not a time to play politics. We need to do whatever is necessary to help our brothers and sisters in Pakistan."
by Staff Writers
Tori Band, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 8, 2010
Fresh rains lashed flood-hit Pakistan Sunday, hampering aid efforts and threatening to deepen a crisis affecting 15 million people in the country's worst ever floods.

Helicopters were grounded in the northwest while rescuers rushed to evacuate families in the poor southern farming belt of Sindh, where officials were readying for a deluge that could burst the banks of the swollen Indus river.

New downpours hammered the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sunday, with experts predicting yet more rain to come, adding to the misery of the millions made homeless by the destructive floods.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited flood-hit areas of Sindh province, calling again for international aid as he said the disaster had spiralled beyond the government's capacity.

"Millions of people have suffered and still there is more rain and further losses are feared. I appeal to the world to help us, we are doing what we can," Gilani told reporters, as he urged those threatened by the "unprecedented" floods to move to safer spots.

"The government has done everything possible but it is beyond our capacity, we are facing an extremely difficult situation," he said.

At least 11 people were killed and 31 injured when a truck carrying flood evacuees fell into a ditch on Saturday after skidding off a slippery road in the northwestern district of Lower Dir, police officer Mumtaz Zareen said.

With the floods sweeping south, those uprooted from their homes in Sindh province have been moved to government buildings, schools and tents.

The Indus river was rising rapidly and water had breached a canal in Tori Band village, forcing people to flee with their families on donkey and camel carts with whatever possessions they could grab.

"We have taken only some of our belongings, most of our household was left behind. We have nothing with us," Abdul Hakim, 30, a farmer leaving Tori Band, told AFP.

"Everything was under water, my field and my house, I have to start a new life," said Hakim, transporting his wife and five young children in a bullock cart.

Thousands of villagers were being evacuated from remote districts of northwest Sindh, with helicopters seen flying overhead.

"A breach has taken place in a canal. Several villages are under water, we are shifting people to safer places, there is no report of human loss," Sualeh Farooqui, chief of Sindh disaster management authority, told AFP.

Countries including Britain, China, Australia, France and the United States have pledged tens of millions of dollars in aid for victims of the nearly two-week disaster.

The United Nations estimates at least 1,600 people have been killed by the floods that have ravaged the largely impoverished, insurgency-hit country, sweeping away entire villages.

The flooding has threatened electricity generation plants, forcing units to shut down in a country already suffering a crippling energy crisis.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, head of flood relief operations Major General Ghayoor Mehmood said some 1,400 people have been killed, with 213 still missing.

Flooding has spread to Indian-held Kashmir, where more than 130 people have died, while some parts of the Punjab are under six feet (two metres) of water, affecting nearly two million people, a senior crisis management official said.

More than 252,000 homes are thought to have been damaged or destroyed across Pakistan and 1.38 million acres (558,000 hectares) of farmland flooded. It could be weeks before electricity is fully restored.

Survivors have lashed out at authorities for failing to come to their rescue and provide better relief, piling pressure on a cash-strapped administration straining to contain Taliban violence and an economic crisis.

Particular scorn has been heaped on President Asif Ali Zardari for pressing ahead with a visit to Europe at the height of the disaster.

In war-torn neighbouring Afghanistan, there were reports of flooding in the south central province of Wardak, where 12 people were confirmed dead, and in eastern Nuristan province, said Abdul Mateen Idrak, head of the National Disaster Management Authority.

The death toll from floods in Pakistani administered Kashmir has risen to 63, crisis management official Mahmood Khan said, adding that 1,000 families had been displaced.

earlier related report
Pakistan races to help 15 million affected by 'worst' floods
Soomra Panhwari, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 7, 2010 - Pakistan raced to evacuate families threatened with fresh floods on Saturday as heavy rains worsened the disaster in its second week, with up to 15 million people already affected.

Authorities in southern Sindh province have warned that a major deluge could hit impoverished river communities in the fertile basin, where they said up to three million people had already been affected and one million evacuated.

Torrential rains continued to hammer northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and helicopter services ferrying aid to some areas had to be suspended until the bad weather subsided.

Those uprooted from their homes in Sindh have been moved to temporary relief shelters in government buildings, schools and tents, but many families living in low-lying areas along the swollen Indus river were resisting evacuation.

"There are some areas where people are still reluctant to leave their homes and belongings. We are compelling them to evacuate because there is massive danger to their lives," said irrigation minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo.

"The water flow in some places along the river is exceptionally high and intermittent rains continue," he added.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has appealed for immediate international help to cope with the country's worst ever floods, which have already devastated provinces in the northwest and centre.

Countries including the US, Britain and China have pledged tens of millions of dollars in aid for victims of the nearly two-week-old disaster.

Floods across the largely impoverished, insurgency-hit country have swept away entire villages and killed at least 1,600 people, according to UN estimates.

Those marooned in Soomra Panhwari in southern Sindh faced a shortage of food and drinking water and authorities said their priority was shifting women and children to safety.

Zaibun Nisa, 40, said she had been forced to leave her husband to whisk her three children away from the floods after all the family's cattle were lost.

"All our belongings have been swept away, our cattle have been lost. My daughter was to be married once we had the money from our sugarcane harvest but the crop is destroyed. Now we are battling for our survival," she said.

The meteorological office has warned that at least two more days of rain are expected in Sindh, where a red alert is in place because of the "imminent" and "extreme" flood threat.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, head of flood relief operations Major General Ghayoor Mehmood, has said some 1,400 people have been killed, with 213 still missing.

Flooding has spread to Indian-held Kashmir, where at least 115 people have died, while some parts of the Punjab are under six feet (two metres) of water, affecting nearly two million people, a senior crisis management official said.

"The scale of the needs is absolutely daunting," Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said Friday.

More than 252,000 homes are thought to have been damaged or destroyed across Pakistan and 1.38 million acres (558,000 hectares) of crop land flooded, and it could take weeks before electricity is fully restored.

The flooding has threatened electricity generation plants, forcing units to shut down in a country already suffering a crippling energy crisis.

In Punjab a senior government official said water had entered an oil refinery unit, oil depot and a power generation plant, with workers being forced to leave their homes in the area.

Survivors have lashed out at authorities for failing to come to their rescue and provide better relief, piling pressure on a cash-strapped administration straining to contain Taliban violence and an economic crisis.

Particular scorn has been heaped on the unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari for pressing ahead with a visit to Europe at the height of the disaster.

The United States has pledged a total of 35 million dollars in aid, with military helicopter relief missions travelling into the worst-hit regions.

Australia on Saturday doubled its aid pledge to 10 million dollars (9.2 million US).

In neighbouring Afghanistan, authorities asked residents of several villages along the Kabul river to leave their homes as smaller floods caused minor damage to homes, an official from the national disaster authority said.




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Huge evacuation underway as Pakistan floods hit four million
Karachi (AFP) Aug 5, 2010
Pakistan began evacuating half a million people from flood-risk areas in the south on Thursday as the overall number hit by the country's worst floods in living memory rose to more than four million. The United Nations rushed a top envoy to Pakistan to mobilise international support and address the urgent plight of millions affected by torrential monsoon rains across the volatile country tha ... read more

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