Sunday 23 November 2014

Heavy rains kill 73 in Pakistan as floods spread

Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Abu Arqam Naqash

Published 05/09/2014 | 11:06

Anti-government protesters wait for a speech by their leader Imran Khan, Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, during heavy rain in front of the Parliament house in the Red Zone during the Revolution March in Islamabad September 4, 2014. Pakistan's protest leaders demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation prepared to resume talks with the government on Wednesday, reviving hopes for a negotiated solution to a crisis that has shaken the coup-prone nation. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra (PAKISTAN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
Anti-government protesters wait for a speech by their leader Imran Khan, Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, during heavy rain in front of the Parliament house in the Red Zone during the Revolution March in Islamabad
An anti-government protester stands as fellow protesters carry their belongings in the premises of the President and Parliament Houses during the Revolution March in Islamabad
A couple wades through a flooded road after heavy rains in Lahore September 4, 2014. At least 73 people have been killed across Pakistan after heavy rains brought flash floods and caused homes to collapse in the Punjab and Kashmir regions
A Pakistani family travels on a horse-cart through flood road following heavy rain in Lahore
Anti-government protesters dry their clothes over a fire after heavy rain, in front of government buildings in the Red zone during the Revolution March in Islamabad
An anti-government protester carries wood passes a woman with her child in the premises of the President's and Parliament Houses during the Revolution March in Islamabad
Anti-government protesters prepare morning tea for breakfast near their makeshift tents before leaving premises of the President's and Parliament Houses during the Revolution March in Islamabad
Anti-government protesters collect their belongings after dismantling their makeshift tents as they leave the premises of the President's and Parliament Houses during the Revolution March in Islamabad
An anti-government protester (C) fixes her makeshift shelter outside the President and Parliament Houses during the Revolution March in Islamabad

At least 73 people have been killed across Pakistan after heavy rains brought flash floods and caused homes to collapse in the Punjab and Kashmir regions.

Most deaths occurred in the city of Lahore, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's powerbase, further damaging the government's standing after weeks of protests aimed at forcing the premier to step down.

As the political crisis dragged through its third week, people's attention turned to the devastation brought by the floods, with television channels showing live images of villages and towns inundated by muddy water.

At least 43 people have been killed in Punjab province and 30 in the Himalayan region of Kashmir in recent days, officials said.

"Most of the 43 dead in Punjab died because the roofs of their homes collapsed," said Nisar Saani, a director at the Punjab Disaster Management Authority. "The rest were electrocuted."

Authorities have issued flood warnings across the country.

"We are bracing for more deaths as more rains are expected," said Khawaja Omer Rashid, a spokesman at Kashmir's disaster management authority.

In the Indian part of the disputed Kashmir region, at least 65 people were killed after heavy rain triggered flash floods, officials there said on Thursday.

Pakistan's civilian governments have long been perceived as riddled by corruption and largely ineffective, leaving the powerful military to step in during disasters.

This week, the army moved in across Punjab to carry out flood relief work while poorly resourced civilian authorities struggled to help.

Television pictures showed a military helicopter evacuating people trapped by floods in the garrison city of Rawalpindi near Islamabad. No floods were reported in the capital which has also seen continuous torrential rainfall since Thursday.

In 2010, the worst floods in memory affected 20 million people in Pakistan, with damage to infrastructure running into billions of dollars and huge swaths of crops destroyed as one fifth of the country was inundated.

Reuters

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