Saturday 18 November 2017

Millions trapped in deluge of despair by relentless rains

Anxiety etched on his face, a little boy awaits food aid in a village in Sukkur, in the Sindh province of Pakistan, yesterday
Anxiety etched on his face, a little boy awaits food aid in a village in Sukkur, in the Sindh province of Pakistan, yesterday
Villagers collect wood from their destroyed house in Sukkur
Flood victims make their way to naval boats for evacuation

Nina Lakhani and  David Randall in Karachi

MORE rains have added to the despair and displacement of untold numbers of villagers in Pakistan

Last night the United Nations said the disaster was now "on a par" with the 2005 Kashmir earthquake which killed 73,000. Even heavier deluges are forecast for the coming days.

Weekend deluges swelled rivers and streams, and heavy rains in Afghanistan are expected to make things even worse over the next 36 hours, as the bloated Kabul River surges into Pakistan's north-west. Pakistani officials estimate as many as 14 million people have been affected by the rising waters.

Evacuations

About 1,600 people have died, most of them in the north-west. Mass evacuations are under way in the southern region of Sindh after the Indus River rose.

As the floods spread south yesterday, about 600 people were reported missing. Rushing waters washed away more than 2,000 villages and displaced 500,000 people. Authorities were desperately trying to protect two large dams in an attempt to prevent devastation on the scale seen in the north. Acres of wheat and sugar cane fields in the country's most fertile region were enveloped in water, destroying two of Pakistan's most valuable export crops. About half of the camps in southern Punjab were evacuated over the weekend as waters rose higher than expected, according to the NGO Plan International.In northern areas, where thousands of people have been marooned since the rainfall began more than a week ago, fresh rains pounded down.

Stranded

A rescue team was dispatched to the village of Baseen in Gilgit-Baltistan yesterday after a river breach left about 300 people stranded. This followed an earlier rescue attempt by the military in the village of Ghanche in which 10 people were airlifted to safety but 30 others were washed away.

Eyewitnesses said babies were going hungry as dry milk powder and clean water supplies ran out, even in the camps receiving aid. Mothers in camps in southern Punjab and Nowshera, in the north, have been forced to give their babies dirty water, according to aid agencies.

While nearly €80m has been pledged by governments and charities, relief efforts continue to be hampered by heavy rain and poor visibility which prevent helicopters and aircraft from delivering aid in some of the worst affected areas. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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