New storms pile on the misery for Pakistanis
Published 07/08/2010 | 05:00
NEW storms added further misery to Pakistani relief efforts yesterday as helicopters carrying emergency supplies to the flood-ravaged northwest were grounded.
The atrocious weather, the worst in decades, brought more destruction to a nation already reeling from Islamist violence.
US military personnel waiting to fly Chinooks to stranded communities in the upper reaches of the hard-hit Swat Valley were frustrated by the storms, which dumped more rain on a region where many are living in tents or crammed into public buildings.
Over the past week, floods triggered by monsoon rains have spread from the northwest down Pakistan, killing around 1,500 people. They were faster and more destructive in the northwest, where waters were receding yesterday. The floods were moving south along the River Indus, causing less damage and death but inundating hundreds of villages nevertheless.
Some 30,000 Pakistani soldiers are rebuilding bridges, delivering food and setting up relief camps in the northwest, which is the main battleground in the fight against al-Qa'ida and the Taliban. Foreign countries and the United Nations have donated millions of dollars.
The UN said four million people had been affected, 1.5 million severely, meaning their homes had been damaged or destroyed. Earlier, Nadim Ahmed, the head of the National Disaster Management Authority, said 12 million people had so far been affected by the floods and 650,000 houses destroyed. The UN said the disaster was "on a par" with the 2005 Kashmir earthquake -- which killed about 73,000 people -- in terms of the numbers of people needing assistance and damage to infrastructure.
In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Raza Yousuf Gilani said it was the worst flooding in Pakistan's 63-year history.