Pakistan flooding death toll expected to rise
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
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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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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