Spreading Pakistan floods affect 4m people, says UN

Posted: August 5, 2010 in Middle East, natural disasters
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BBC news online 5 Aug 2010

“People say they are not getting help from the army or the government.”

Pakistan’s worst flooding in nearly a century has now affected more than four million people and left at least 1,600 dead, says the UN. While floods in the north-west began to recede, the vast body of water has been moving down the country into new parts of Punjab and menacing Sindh province. All wells have been contaminated and water-borne diseases have been spreading, officials say. The region is midway through monsoon season and more rain is forecast.

The number of affected districts in Punjab has reached seven, while 350,000 people have been moved from neighbouring Sindh province, most of which is on high alert, the United Nations said.

Manuel Bessler, who heads the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan, told a news conference in Geneva: “What we are facing now is a major catastrophe.” He added: “We are only in the middle of the monsoon season, there is more rain expected. We are afraid it will get worse.”

With crops, homes, roads and bridges washed away, the human exodus continued on Thursday as yet more torrential rain fell. In the worst-affected areas, houses, shops, petrol pumps and small villages have been submerged. Fleeing villagers have waded barefoot through water up to their necks and chests, carrying belongings on their heads…

About 10,000 homeless people have gathered on an open area of ground in front of a technical college in the town. They are living in tents donated by an Islamic organisation, but in conditions of overwhelming squalor and filth. Doctors, helping out under a tarpaulin to give them some protection from the fierce sun, say growing numbers of people, particularly children, are suffering from diarrhoea, skin diseases and malnutrition. Every day that passes, the situation gets worse.

Meanwhile, forecasters warned of further downpours for the north-west, which has not seen such flooding since 1929. “The flood water is increasing at different points and we are expecting more rain in the next 24 hours,” Hazrat Mir, chief meteorologist for Punjab, told news agency AFP.

Government and civilian agencies have been struggling to get supplies to the worst affected areas. Victims have bitterly accused the authorities of failing to come to their rescue and provide sufficient relief.

Particular scorn has been poured on President Asif Ali Zardari because he pressed ahead with a visit to Europe. Mr Zardari is due to launch his son’s political career on Saturday in the British city of Birmingham.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10878458

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