Pakistan floods misery 'beyond control'
Published 28/08/2010 | 05:00
AT the beginning of the month UN chief Ban Ki Moon described the Pakistani flood disaster as "a tsunami in slow motion", and yesterday hundreds of thousands more people were sent fleeing in its wake.
If things were not already desperate enough, the Taliban issued a veiled threat against foreign aid workers.
The development will almost certainly complicate the massive relief effort. More than eight million people are in need of emergency assistance across the country.
The floods began in the mountainous northwest about a month ago with the onset of monsoon rains and have moved slowly down the country towards the coast in the south, inundating prime agricultural land and destroying more than one million homes.
About 175,000 people are believed to have fled their homes overnight in the southern city of Thatta after the levee protecting the city was breached. And authorities were trying to repair the levee about 125km southeast of the coastal city of Karachi.
"The situation is getting worse," said a local disaster official in Thatta. "The water is flowing into a nearby canal endangering Thatta city."
A second breach occurred at a second levee in the same region, said Gulab Shah, who is helping relief efforts.
"It is beyond control now," he said. "Thousands of people are sitting with their cattle and belongings and their lives are in danger. They are not willing to leave."
There were reports of dozens of people taking shelter in the UN-protected Makli Hill burial ground, one of the largest burial sites in the world. The graveyard, which is not believed to be in danger, houses the ornate tombs of hundreds of Muslim saints from the 14th Century.
Elsewhere, protesters blocked a nearby highway with burning tyres. They said they heeded evacuation orders, but now had no food, water or shelter.
UN spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said about one million people have been displaced in Thatta and Qambar-Shadadkot districts since Wednesday.
The UN, the Pakistani army and a host of other local and international relief groups have been rushing aid workers, medicine, food and water to the affected regions, but are unable to reach many people.
The Pakistani Taliban yesterday hinted they might attack foreign aid workers. Militant spokesman Azam Tariq said the US and other countries were not really focused on providing aid to flood victims but had other motives.
"Behind the scenes they have certain intentions, but on the face they are talking of relief and help," Mr Tariq said. "No relief is reaching the affected people, and when the victims are not receiving help, then this horde of foreigners is not acceptable to us at all."