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Pakistan alert as floods hit 3.2 million

International Desk |
Update: 2010-08-02 23:55:07
Pakistan alert as floods hit 3.2 million

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan issued fresh flood warnings on Tuesday, braced for further chaos and a public health disaster as disease broke out among 3.2 million people hit by the worst floods in generations.

A week into the crisis and as more monsoon rains lashed the country, anger was growing to boiling point among impoverished survivors complaining that they have been abandoned by the government after floods that have left up to 1,500 people dead.

Bedraggled victims travelled on foot, with luggage stacked on donkey carts or crammed into cars, trying to reach safer ground as others sheltered in mosques from downpours that threaten to deepen the misery of hundreds of thousands.
"This is a serious humanitarian disaster," the UN humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, told AFP, saying that discussions were under way to determine whether the crisis warranted a fresh appeal for donor aid.

The United Nations said clean drinking water and sanitation were urgently needed to stop diseases spreading after Pakistan`s worst floods in 80 years.

"People immediately need food, water, shelter, health facilities, medicines and sanitation," UN World Food Programme spokesman Amjad Jamal told AFP.

Families sleeping rough spent an anxious night, some worried about looters and firing intermittent bursts of gunfire to head off any possible trouble in the devastated village of Majuky Faqirabad, witnesses said.

Most of the homes in the village have been destroyed. The rest lay in disarray with belongings littered under the open skies. Villagers said 10 bodies had been recovered from the waters but that at least 100 people were still missing.

Aid workers, the government and the military say they are battling to reach affected communities, but anger was growing among survivors over the enormity of their plight as President Asif Ali Zardari pressed on with a visit to Europe.

"Zardari should visit the flood-hit areas and take steps for welfare of the stranded people instead of taking joy rides to France and the UK," said villager Sher Khan, 40 in Majuky Faqirabad.

"We have been cut off from the rest of the country for the last five days," school teacher Muhammad Tariq, 37, told AFP from Bahrain district.

"The army and local administration repeatedly assured us that they would airlift us to Peshawar but nothing of the sort has happened yet."

Authorities in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa issued a warning to people living around Warsak Dam, one of the country`s most vital dams and lying outside the city of Peshawar.

Pakistan`s meteorological service forecast widespread rains in the southern province of Sindh, Punjab in the centre, Pakistani-held Kashmir, the northwest and southwestern Baluchistan during the next three days.

Flash flooding was expected in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Baluchistan, it warned, with heavy thunderstorms in Islamabad.

The local government in Khyber Pakhtunkwa has said up to 1,500 people have died. The UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF) put the figure at 1,400, although there are fears the toll could rise further.

"Providing clean water and sanitation is an absolute priority if we are to avert a public health disaster," said Ateeb Siddiqui, director of operations with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society.

Record rain last week triggered floods and landslides that obliterated entire villages and ruined farmland in one of the country`s most impoverished and volatile regions, already hard hit by Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence.
Around 3.2 million people have been affected with 1.4 million of them children, said Marco Jimenez Rodriguez, spokesman for UNICEF.

The United Nations said around 980,000 people had lost their homes or been temporarily displaced, and that the figure was likely to rise above a million.
In the city of Peshawar, more than 200 people including women and children queued up near a truck carrying flour, cooking oil and lentils. Other survivors laid their wet bedding out on the roadside, waiting for handouts.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pledged aid of up to 10 million dollars for those affected by the crisis, Britain pledged five million pounds (eight million dollars) and South Korea 500,000 dollars worth of emergency relief supplies.

Helicopters sent by Washington have rescued more than 700 people from flood-hit areas, US officials said.

BDST 1945 HRS, AUGUST 3, 2010

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