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Pakistan flooding death toll expected to rise

Pakistani flood survivors cross a damage bridge in Medain, a town of Swat valley on August 2, 2010. Fears are growing about outbreaks of disease among 2.5 million people affected by Pakistan's worst floods in 80 years after monsoon rains killed up to 1,500 people across the northwest. Photo courtesy AFP.

China bridge collapse toll rises to 51 dead
Beijing (AFP) Aug 2, 2010 - At least 51 people were killed and 15 were still missing after a bridge collapsed in central China because too many people crowded on it to watch the flood torrents below, state media reported Monday. Parts of southern, central and northern China have been battered by downpours that have caused the worst flooding in a decade, leaving about 1,000 dead and hundreds more missing since the beginning of the year. Waters have cut off roads, left villages inaccessible and knocked out communications and water supplies in the hardest-hit areas. Workers have been battling for more than a week to retrieve bodies since the 200-metre (yard) long bridge spanning the Yihe River in Henan province collapsed on July 24, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"Five teams of about 40 rescuers are still searching for the missing," Zhou Hongsen, a county official, was quoted as saying. "We also have offered cash rewards hoping more residents would join the search and rescue." An initial investigation found the 23-year-old bridge collapsed after fallen tree trunks became stuck under it, blocking the raging flood waters. But a witness told Xinhua the bridge was crowded with people when it collapsed. Flood waters gushed into a water plant at the weekend in Tonghua, an industrial city in the northeast province of Jilin, after an embankment burst, damaging pipes and cutting off the water supply to 300,000 people, Xinhua said.

Water, food and electricity supplies were disrupted elsewhere in Jilin, the latest province to be pounded by rains and floods, with 100 killed since Wednesday, according to state media. The extent of the destruction there was still becoming clear on Monday as rescuers reached the worst-hit areas. Five villages near the Songhua Lake, with more than 14,000 inhabitants, were left in ruins after a reservoir burst last week. Part of Dahe, the village closest to the reservoir, was "obliterated," Xinhua reported. Houses were wiped out and crops completely destroyed.

"I still remember the roar of the flood when it hit the village. It still haunts me," Wang Chunliang, a villager who used a video camera to capture the devastation, was quoted as saying. Heavy rains have been forecast in northeast China for most of the coming week. That news has prompted faster work from crews trying to salvage the last of more than 7,000 chemical barrels -- more than half of them full with toxic substances -- that were swept last week into the Songhua river. Xinhua reported late Sunday that only about 700 barrels had yet to be recovered, but it was unclear if they were empty or full. Officials say the water in the Songhua -- the major source of drinking water for about 4.3 million people -- is safe.
by Staff Writers
Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 3, 2010
The death toll from Pakistan's devastating monsoon rains was expected to rise on Tuesday as fears grew of outbreaks of disease among the 2.5 million people affected by the floods.

Up to 1,500 people have died in the country's northwest as floods and landslides triggered by unprecedented rain have destroyed homes and farmland in one of the country's most impoverished regions.

Aid officials said clean drinking water and sanitation were urgently needed to stop diseases such as cholera spreading among the survivors of Pakistan's worst floods in 80 years.

The United Nations said around 980,000 people had lost their homes or been temporarily displaced by the floods and the figure was likely to rise above a million.

An assessment by the UN World Food Programme in four districts -- Nowshera, Charsadda, Mardan and Peshawar -- found that around 80,000 homes had been destroyed and another 50,000 damaged.

Food, clean drinking water, tents and medical supplies were the most urgent needs, the UN said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that up to 2.5 million people across Pakistan had been affected by the flooding, with entire villages washed away in some areas.

Ateeb Siddiqui, Director of Operations with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, said: "Thousands of people are living in miserable conditions. Providing clean water and sanitation is an absolute priority if we are to avert a public health disaster."

Aid workers and Pakistan's military conducted what relief efforts they could as officials warned that the death toll was rising.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said Monday the toll from the floods stood at 1,200 to 1,500, while provincial health minister Syed Zahir Ali Shah said about 100,000 people, mostly children, were suffering from illnesses such as gastroenteritis.

The region's chief minister Amir Haider Hoti said the floods were "unprecedented" and warned it could take up to 10 days to assess the overall number of dead and displaced.

Pakistan's meteorological service forecast rain of up to 200 millimetres (eight inches) in the next weeks across the northwest, Pakistani-administered Kashmir, the central province of Punjab and Sindh in the south.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pledged aid of up to 10 million dollars for those affected by the crisis, while Britain pledged five million pounds (eight million dollars).

Helicopters sent by Washington have rescued more than 700 people from flood-hit areas, US officials said.

But food victims have condemned authorities over sluggish relief, shouting "give us aid sent by foreign countries" and "death to the corrupt government.

At a camp set up by the army for around 640 families in Nowshehra, women and children ran after vehicles bringing food and water, pushing and shouting.

People at the camp said there were no proper toilets or bathrooms and that the only respite from the crushing heat was plastic hand fans. Most of them fled in the clothes they were wearing and many children roamed naked.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said it had rescued more than 28,000 people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by helicopter and boat.

earlier related report
Survivors lash out after Pakistan floods kill 1,100
Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 2, 2010 - Survivors crammed into inadequate shelters expressed anger over inaction from the Pakistani government on Monday as the death toll from the country's worst floods in generations topped 1,100.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pledged extra aid of up to 10 million dollars to help in the crisis, which local officials say has affected more than 1.5 million people in Pakistan's northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

"I had built a two-room house on the outskirts of Peshawar with my hard-earned money but I lost it in the floods," said labourer Ejaz Khan, one of several hundred people who demonstrated in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

"The government is not helping us... the school building where I sheltered is packed with people, with no adequate arrangement for food and medicine," the 53-year-old told AFP.

The floods and landslides triggered by monsoon rains capped a devastating week in Pakistan, where 152 people were killed when an Airblue passenger jet slammed into hills overlooking the capital in the country's worst plane crash.

Ban said he was "deeply saddened" by the losses incurred in the worst floods in Pakistan for 80 years, reiterating a full commitment to "meeting the humanitarian needs" of those affected.

Pakistani television footage and photographs taken from helicopters showed people clinging to the walls and rooftops of damaged houses as water rushed through villages, with waterborne diseases emerging as a threat to survivors.

Thousands of homes and vast swathes of farmland have been destroyed in a region of Pakistan reeling from years of extremist bloodshed.

"The floods have killed more than 1,100 people in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and affected over 1.5 million," said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the northwest province's information minister.

"We are receiving information about the loss of life and property caused by the floods all over the province," he told AFP, adding that he feared the death toll could rise.

A senior official at the provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) confirmed the toll.

Hussain said more than 3,700 homes had been swept away and the number of people made homeless was mounting.

Hundreds of survivors sought shelter in schools in Peshawar, the main city in northwest Pakistan, and in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, after escaping the floods with children on their backs.

Pakistan's meterological office said the northwest had been hit by an "unprecedented" 312 millimetres (12 inches) of rain in 36 hours.

The US government announced an initial 10-million-dollar aid pledge and has rushed helicopters and boats to Pakistan.

China, which has also been hit by severe flooding, announced a 10 million yuan (1.5 million dollar) donation, according to the official Xinhua news agency, which cited a government website.

Hussain said rescue teams were trying to reach 1,500 tourists stranded in Swat district, the scene of a major anti-Taliban military offensive last year.

"We are also getting confirmation of reports about an outbreak of cholera in some areas of Swat," he said.

The Pakistan Air Force said it had airlifted more than 500 stranded people, including six foreigners, as part of relief operations and was carrying out reconnaissance missions to assess the damage to infrastructure.

President Asif Ali Zardari is due in Paris Monday for a two-day visit, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner expressed France's "solidarity" with Pakistan in the face of the floods.

Floods also ravaged parts of Afghanistan, killing at least 65 people and affecting more than 1,000 families, officials said.

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Pakistan flood toll tops 1,100 as cholera emerges
Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 1, 2010
The death toll from Pakistan's worst floods in living memory topped 1,100 on Sunday as outbreaks of water-borne disease emerged and penniless survivors sought refuge from the raging torrents. More than 1.5 million people have been affected by monsoon rains, flash floods and landslides in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and at least another 47 have died in Pakistani-administered ... read more

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