Pakistan rushes to provide aid as flood death toll rises

Pakistan rushes to provide aid as flood death toll rises

ISLAMABAD (AP) – Pakistan rushed to deliver aid to those most in need on Tuesday as the record-breaking flood death toll in this impoverished Islamic nation rose further, with no respite in sight of unprecedented monsoon rains.

The rains started earlier this year, in mid-June, and wiped out entire villages, bridges and roads, leaving hundreds of thousands of homeless. At one point, a third of the country’s territory was flooded with water.

Authorities said the overall death toll reached 1,481 on Tuesday, with another 54 people dying from flooding from rain in the past 24 hours, with most of those deaths in Sindh province being hit hard. Experts said climate change was largely blamed on the flood, the worst in recent memory.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s minister for climate change, warned that rains, which decreased late last month to resume this week, are expected to continue to hit much of the country in the coming weeks.

Rehman also expressed fears that downpours would hamper ongoing rescue and relief operations in flood-affected areas, where swirling floods from overflowing rivers, rapidly melting glaciers and floods have already affected 33 million people.

So far, rescuers have evacuated 179,281 people from flood-affected areas.

It will take up to six months to drain water in flood-affected areas, officials say. Waterborne diseases have already sickened thousands of people in flood-affected areas, and mosquito-borne dengue fever is now feared. Mosquitoes have spread, due to the stagnation of water following the floods.

“With 584,246 people in camps across the country, (the) health crisis could wreak havoc,” Rehman said in a statement.

He added that the southern port city of Karachi has experienced an outbreak of dengue fever so far. Karachi is also the capital of Sindh province, one of the regions most affected by the floods.

The floods also destroyed crops, including 70 percent of the onion crop, along with rice and corn, Rehman said. Much of the country’s agricultural belt is underwater, and Pakistan is in talks with several nations to import grain. Iran has already shipped fresh vegetables to Pakistan.

In Sindh, officials said further downpours could delay the return of some 600,000 people from the fields to their villages, towns and other urban areas. The previous day’s strong winds wiped out several relief camps in remote areas of Sindh.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s government has started distributing money to those who have lost their homes due to the flood to help them start their lives again.

State media also quoted Sharif as telling his cabinet Tuesday that despite the fact that Pakistan emits less than 1% of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, it faces widespread damage from climate-induced flooding, disproportionately more than others. nations.

The floods damaged 1.7 million homes, according to the National Disaster Management Agency. Thousands of pregnant women live in tents and makeshift homes.

Initially, Pakistan estimated that the floods caused $ 10 billion in damage, but now authorities say the damage is much greater. The devastation forced the United Nations to urge the international community to send more aid.

So far, United Nations agencies and various countries, including the United States, have sent about 90 planes loaded with aid. Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres traveled to the flood-affected areas of southern and southwestern Pakistan to see firsthand the extent of the disaster.

“I ask for massive support from the international community as Pakistan responds to this climate catastrophe,” tweeted Guterres from Pakistan. Previously, he had called on the world to stop “sleep walking” during the dangerous environmental crisis.

As Pakistani authorities face the unprecedented flood, security forces are also struggling with militant attacks. According to the Pakistani army, three soldiers were killed in the north-west of the country by fire from militants across the Afghan border. The attack hit a border security post in Kurram, a district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The military said in a statement that the shooting came from the Afghan side of the border.

On Tuesday, a roadside bomb hit a vehicle carrying local village leaders and police to the flood-affected Swat Valley in the northwest, killing five people, including two policemen. No group claimed responsibility for the attack and Saeed Khan, a Swat police officer, said they are still investigating.

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Associated Press writer Riaz Khan contributed to this story from Peshawar, Pakistan.

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