Pakistan monsoon floods kill more than 400

Why does it seem that the poorest people are always those “targeted” by natural disasters? It will take years for these individuals to get their lives back in some semblance of order, especially since they live under a corrupt government that does little for its people. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

by Lehaz Ali Lehaz Ali

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – Rescue workers and troops in northwest Pakistan struggled Saturday to reach thousands of people affected by the country’s worst floods in living memory, as the death toll rose past 400.

Hundreds of homes and vast swathes of farmland were destroyed in the northwest and Pakistani Kashmir, with the main highway to China reportedly cut and communities isolated as monsoon rains caused flash floods and landslides.

The United Nations said almost a million people had been affected by the flooding, and at least 45 bridges destroyed around Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Television footage and photos shot from helicopters showed people clinging to the walls and rooftops of damaged houses as gushing waters rampaged through inundated villages.

Carrying their belongings, with children on their shoulders, some even walked barefoot through the water to seek safety.

“This is the worst ever flood in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the country’s history,” provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said.

“At least 408 deaths have been confirmed in floods and rain-related incidents across the province,” he said.

Another 150 people were missing in the northwestern province, where many impoverished families live in remote mountain villages.

At least 600,000 people have been affected and the number was likely to escalate as river levels continue to rise, the minister said.

Peshawar, the main city in the northwest, and the districts of Swat and Shangla were cut off from the rest of country as roads and highways were submerged, he said.

Police said five people were drowned when their boat capsized near the northwestern town of Nowshehra on Saturday.

An AFP reporter saw hundreds of people arriving in Peshawar city, many of them without any belongings.

Muqaddir Khan, 25, arriving with nine other family members, told AFP in a suburb of Peshawar that he had lost everything in flood.

“I laboured hard in Saudi Arabia for three years and set up a small shop which was swept away by flood in minutes. I have lost everything,” Khan said.

Razia Bibi, 48, said she and her family spent the night awake as water kept rising.

“My house is now gone under water and I could escape with a few belongings,” Bibi told AFP.

Authorities are using school buildings in Peshawar to provide shelter to those affected by the floods.

The army said it had sent boats and helicopters to rescue stranded people and military engineers were attempting to open roads and divert the waters from key routes.

The flooding deaths capped a week of tragedy for Pakistan, coming after a passenger jet crashed into hills overlooking Islamabad on Wednesday, killing 152.

Relief organisations had earlier put the death toll from the floods at 325.

Pakistan’s weather bureau said an “unprecedented” 312 millimetres (12 inches) of rain had fallen in 36 hours in the northwest but predicted only scattered showers during coming days.

Provincial relief commissioner Shakil Qadir said the worst-hit area was Malakand, where 102 people died and 16,000 were marooned because bridges had collapsed and road links been cut.

Qadir said that around 2,800 Pakistani holidaymakers had been stranded in the Swat valley, where the military maintains a heavy presence after a massive operation against Taliban insurgents last year.

Efforts were being made to airlift them to safety in helicopters, he said.

The Karakoram Highway, which links Pakistan to China, was closed as rains washed away a bridge in Shangla district, also cutting off Gilgit-Baltistan from other parts of the country, media reports said.

Northwest Pakistan has been hardest hit but monsoon rains have also killed 25 people in the southwestern province of Baluchistan over the past few days, senior officer of the disaster management authority Ataullah Khan told AFP in the provincial capital Quetta.

Flash floods had affected eight districts, he said, adding that around 275,000 people had been affected and more than 15,000 houses destroyed.

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