Saturday 14 December 2019

Death toll from floods reaches 400

Indian soldiers build a temporary bridge across a river after the existing bridge was damaged in the floods (AP)
Indian soldiers build a temporary bridge across a river after the existing bridge was damaged in the floods (AP)
Kashmiri residents are evacuated from a flooded neighbourhood on a tractor (AP)

The death toll from floods in Pakistan and India has reached 400.

Armies in both countries have scrambled to help the victims and authorities in Islamabad have warned of more flooding in the days ahead.

The flash floods, which began on September 3, have put more than half a million people in peril and left thousands homeless.

Pakistani and Indian troops have been using boats and helicopters to drop food supplies for stranded families and to evacuate victims.

The floods have also triggered landslides in both sections of the divided Kashmir region, split between the two rivals, and caused much devastation in northern and eastern Pakistan.

The rains washed away houses, bridges, communication equipment and crops. Pakistani and Indian troops have evacuated more than 40,000 people to safer places, according to the statements from the Indian and Pakistani armies.

So far, 205 have died in Pakistan while 200 have died in India, while nearly 700 people have been injured, officials said.

According to Ahmad Kamal, spokesman for Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority, the floods are now moving towards Pakistan's south. Evacuations were already under way in several southern districts which could soon be inundated.

The Kashmir region in the northern Himalayas is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Two of the three wars the countries have fought since their independence from Britain in 1947 have been over control of Kashmir.

The Indian army has airlifted communication equipment to restore telephone and mobile phone links that were snapped after large areas of Kashmir were submerged under flood water. Army engineers are working to restore communication links, the Indian army said in a statement.

The relief packages the armies have been dropping in the affected areas include blankets, food supplies, medicine and drinking water for thousands of people who have been moved to safer places.

Although the rains have stopped, the flood waters are likely to submerge hundreds of more villages. Pakistani authorities are bracing for worsening conditions as water levels in the Chenab and Indus rivers are rising.

Pakistan's minister for water and power, Khwaja Mohammad Asif, told parliament that an additional 700,000 people have been told to leave their areas, which could be severely affected in the next few days.

Meanwhile, environmental experts in India said extensive deforestation of Kashmir's mountains has aggravated the damage due to the floods.

With the Himalayan hills in Kashmir stripped off their green cover, fast-flowing streams were causing soil erosion and flash floods, said Krishnaswamy Srinivas of the Vasudha Foundation, a New Delhi-based environmental advocacy group.

PA Media

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