Pakistan's Unprecedented Flood Leaves More Than 1,100 People Dead
Pakistan flooding death toll hits 1,100
U.N. estimates some 1 million people nationwide have been affected by the disaster
msnbc.com, July 31, 2010
NOWSHERA, Pakistan — The death toll in the massive flooding in Pakistan rose to 1,100 people as floodwaters receded Sunday in the hard-hit northwest, an official said.
Disaster management official Adnan Khan said that the death toll could rise even higher since there are areas in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province that rescue workers have not been able to get to.
Authorities are struggling to save more than 27,000 people still trapped by the flooding that has plagued the northwest in recent days following heavy monsoon rains.
Khan said more than 20,000 people have been rescued so far.
The damage to roads, bridges and communications networks continued to hinder rescuers, while the threat of disease loomed as some evacuees arrived in camps with fever, diarrhea and skin problems.
Even for a country used to tragedy — especially deadly suicide attacks by Taliban militants — the scale of this past week's flooding has been shocking. Monsoon rains come every year, but rarely with such fury. The devastation came in the wake of the worst-ever plane crash in Pakistan, which killed 152 people in Islamabad on Wednesday.
As rivers swelled in Pakistan's northwest, people sought ever-shrinking high ground or grasped for trees and fences to avoid getting swept away. Buildings simply crumbled into the raging river in Kalam, a town in the northern part of the Swat Valley, Geo TV showed Saturday.
The U.N. estimated that some 1 million people nationwide were affected by the disaster, though it didn't specify exactly what that meant.
Floodwaters were receding in the region, and many people remain missing, Hussain said.
Over 30,000 Pakistani army troops engaged in rescue and relief work had evacuated 19,000 trapped people by Saturday night, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas.
"The level of devastation is so widespread, so large," he said. "It is quite possible that in many areas there is damage, deaths, which may not have been reported."
In the Nowshera area, scores of men, women and children sat on roofs in hopes of air or boat rescues. Many had little more than the clothes on their backs.
"There are very bad conditions," said Amjad Ali, a rescue worker in the area. "They have no water, no food."
A doctor treating evacuees at a small relief camp in Nowshera said some had diarrhea and others had marks appearing on their skin, causing itching. Children and the elderly seemed to have the most problems, Mehmood Jaa said.
"Due to the floodwater, they now have pain in their bodies and they are suffering from fever and cough," Jaa told The Associated Press.
In the town Charsadda, Nabi Gul, who estimated he was around 70, looked at a pile of rubble where his house once stood.
"I built this house with my life's earnings and hard work, and the river has washed it away," he said in a trembling voice. "Now I wonder, will I be able to rebuild it? And in this time, when there are such great price hikes?"
Another resident of Charsadda complained of what he considered a lackluster government response.
"Nobody has offered us for help. We have got no help," said Awal Sher, 60. "Everything is destroyed. Inside, outside — everything is broken."
Flooding hits Afghanistan
In eastern Afghanistan, Edrak said floods destroyed about 800 homes and hundreds of acres of farm land, damaged hydropower dams and partially destroyed more than 500 other houses. Most of the flooding was in eight provinces, including Kabul, he said.
Rescuers were using army helicopters, heavy trucks and boats to try to reach flood-hit areas. Thousands of homes and roads were destroyed, and at least 45 bridges across the northwest were damaged, the U.N. said.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement that it worked with Afghanistan's fledgling air force to rescue more the 2,000 Afghans from flooding in Nangahar and Kunar provinces — in some cases flying into insurgent areas to save people.
"The crews were called out for rescues in Kunar, five miles south of Asadabad. This is a region of conflict, with a history of surface-to-air fire, which is particularly dangerous to helicopter operations," said Lt. Col. Paul Birch, a spokesman for the Combined Air Power Transition Force.
The mostly Afghan crew, led by Kabul Air Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Barat, used just two Afghan Air Force Mi-17 helicopters for over 30 hours, through bad weather, stopping only for fuel, ISAF said.
"During the course of the rescue operations, coalition crews displayed many acts of heroism that were awe-inspiring," Birch said.
Lt. Col. Bernard "Jeep" Willi, a CAPTF advisor pilot, held one wheel on the side of a bridge while hovering to allow stranded Afghans to board. Another pilot performed a rescue with his Mi17 submerged to the fuselage, Birch said.
The American Embassy in Islamabad announced the United States would be providing 12 prefabricated steel bridges to temporarily replace some of the spans damaged by the water. It also is sending rescue boats, water filtration units and some 50,000 meals to be distributed to those in stricken areas, the embassy said in a statement.
Communications networks were sketchy, and the rescue effort was further hampered by the washed-out roads and bridges, said Lutfur Rehman, a government official in the northwest.
"Our priority is to transport flood-affected people to safer places. We are carrying out this rescue operation despite limited resources," he said.
Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, the head of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, said that no more rain was expected in the next few days for the northwest. But Punjab province in the east, Sindh province in the south, and Pakistan's side of the disputed Kashmir region all could expect a lashing over the next three or four days, he said.
Flooding has already affected some of those regions, with more than 20 people dying in Kashmir.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.