Friday 24 March 2017

Death toll from floods in Pakistan rises to 1,100

Rescuers struggle to save 27,300 people still trapped by waters

A man evacuates his children through waist-deep waters after heavy flooding in Nowshera in Pakistan's northwest Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa Province yesterday
A man evacuates his children through waist-deep waters after heavy flooding in Nowshera in Pakistan's northwest Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa Province yesterday

Riaz Khan in Peshawar

The death toll from massive floods in north-western Pakistan rose to 1,100 last night as rescue workers struggled to save more than 27,000 people still trapped by the raging water.

The rescue effort was aided by a slackening of the monsoon rains that have caused the worst flooding in decades in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province. But as flood waters started to recede, authorities began to understand the full scale of the disaster.

"Aerial monitoring is being conducted, and it has shown that whole villages have washed away, animals have drowned and grain storages have washed away," said Latifur Rehman of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority. "The destruction is massive."

The flooding, which the UN estimates has affected one million people, comes at a time when the Pakistani government is already grappling with a faltering economy and a war against the Taliban.

The United States announced yesterday that it would provide Pakistan with $10m in humanitarian assistance -- a high-profile gesture at a time when the Obama administration is trying to dampen anti-American sentiment in the country.

The 1,100 death toll from the flooding could go even higher since rescue workers have been unable to access certain areas, said Adnan Khan, a disaster management official.

Almost 700 people have drowned in the Peshawar valley and 115 others are still missing, Mr Khan said.

Taliban

The districts of Swat and Shangla have also been hit hard and have suffered more than 400 deaths, said Mujahid Khan, the head of rescue services for the Edhi Foundation.

Residents of Swat were still trying to recover from a major battle between the army and the Taliban last spring that caused widespread destruction and drove some two million people from their homes. About one million of those were still displaced.

In Swat alone, the floods have destroyed more than 14,600 houses and 22 schools, said Mr Khan.

Authorities have deployed 43 military helicopters and more than 100 boats to try to rescue some 27,300 people still trapped by the floods, said Mr Rehman.

"All efforts are being used to rescue people stuck in inaccessible areas and all possible help is being provided to affected people," said Mr Rehman.

But yesterday, some residents stepped up their criticism of the government's response.

"The flood has devastated us all, and I don't know where my family has gone," said Hakimullah Khan, a resident of Charsadda town who complained the government has not helped him search for his missing wife and three children.

"Water is all around and there is no help in sight," said Mr Khan.

Some people like Sehar Ali Shah, who were rescued, complained that authorities didn't provide shelter that would allow them to stay until the floodwaters receded.

"My son drowned, but I don't see the government taking care of us," said Mr Shah after returning to his half-submerged house in the city of Nowshera. "The government has not managed an alternate place to shift us to."

The threat of disease loomed as some evacuees arrived in camps with fever, diarrhoea and skin problems.

"There is now a real danger of the spread of waterborne diseases like diarrhoea, asthma, skin allergies and perhaps cholera in these areas," said Shaharyar Bangash, the head of operations in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa for World Vision.

Irish Independent

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