The Heat Is Online

Pakistan Flooding Leaves 300,000 People Homeless

300,000 homeless in new round of Pakistan flooding

1.2 million homes destroyed or damaged since August, compounding 2010 disaster

Reuters, Sept. 14, 2011

Monsoon rain crippled Pakistan's biggest city Karachi on Tuesday, and the unpopular government came under pressure to provide relief for about 300,000 people left homeless by floods in the south.

Pakistan, regarded as one of the world's most unstable countries, is haunted by memories of epic floods last year, which brought widespread criticism of the government because of its slow response.

More than 800,000 families remain without permanent shelter from the 2010 country-wide floods, aid groups say, and more than a million need food assistance.

Pakistani leaders face a new crisis as monsoon rains which have killed 226 people sweep through the southern province of Sindh.

Flood waters have destroyed or damaged 1.2 million houses and flooded 4.5 million acres since late August, disaster management officials and Western aid groups say.

In Karachi, the capital of Sindh, few people made it to work or school and more rain forecast through Wednesday raised the possibility of extended disruptions.

Many streets were impassable, cars were stuck and several fuel stations were inundated.

"We have recorded 50-100 mm (2 to 4 inches) of rain in Karachi and the situation is pretty bad. It can turn even worse," said Mohammad Hussain Syed, the city's district coordination officer.

He said no casualties had been recorded.

Many banks were also closed in Karachi, Pakistan's economic engine.

"I thought I would be able to make it to work, but it was a wrong decision. Now I am stuck. My car has broken down and I can't even find anyone for help," said banker Khalid Hussain, standing knee-deep in water.

In the countryside, flood victims condemned the government, echoing sentiment during last year's disaster.

"We are on our own. I don't know how we are going to survive," said Mala Badal, who took refuge with 800 others in a school that is serving as a shelter in Tando Adam village.

She and her fever-stricken baby who constantly moaned in pain spent Monday night in the shed of a grocery shop as heavy rain pounded the area.

Near the town of Badin, 65-year-old Bani and hundreds of others built shelters from branches, sheets and plastic as goats roamed nearby.

The floods took many by surprise.

"Everything we have is destroyed. Our landlords gave us food but not the government," said Bani.

"When the water came we just grabbed a few belongings, anything we could carry, like the beds. We have just the clothes we are wearing."

Monsoon rains sweep the subcontinent from June to September and are crucial for agriculture.

Officials said they were doing their best to help people.

"In many areas the flooding has completely cut off villages. So we can't even reach those people. We have asked the army's engineering corps to help move these people," Sindh Minister for Rehabilitation Muzafar Ali Shujra told Reuters.

The 2010 floods killed about 2,000 people and made 11 million homeless in one of Pakistan's worst natural disasters. While the government was seen as indecisive, the military took charge of rescue and relief efforts.

One-fifth of Pakistan was then submerged in water -- an area the size of Italy -- and the government faced a $10 billion bill to repair damage to homes, bridges, roads and other infrastructure.

Aid workers expressed fears over possible outbreaks of diseases linked to the new floods, especially among children.

Karachi, on the Arabian Sea and the country's main port, contributes about two-third of the government's total tax revenue and 25 percent of Pakistan's gross domestic product.

Floods are the last thing the city of 18 million people needs.

Political and ethnic violence, organized crime, drug gangs and Muslim militancy have destabilized Karachi, prompting recent calls for a military crackdown.

The Islamabad government, reliant on an $11 billion IMF loan to keep the economy afloat, will face another setback if floods cause heavy damage to the vital agriculture sector.

Floods have caused only minor damage to the sugarcane and rice crops, officials said, though weeks of downpours have already destroyed about 13 percent of the crucial cotton crop.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters.

Pakistan: Torrential rains and floods paralyse Karachi, Sept. 13, 2011

Pakistan's commercial capital, Karachi, has been paralysed by floods as torrential rain continues to lash southern Sindh province.

Schools have shut down, many markets were forced to close and commuters had to abandon their vehicles as rain water flooded the streets.

Villages across the province have been inundated as canals have been breached and water has not adequately drained.

Many in the region are still recovering from last year's devastating floods.

Millions were displaced across the country and at least 1,600 people died as torrential monsoon rains in 2010 caused rivers to burst their banks, washing away homes and property. Sindh was one of the worst affected regions.

Some officials have said this year's floods could prove to be as serious.

'Families stranded'

After two weeks of heavy rain, almost one million houses in Sindh have been destroyed or damaged and floods have affected nearly 4.2m acres of land, the UN says.

More than 200,000 people are estimated to have been made homeless by the floods and are living in temporary shelters or out in the open. Stranded families need food and drinking water but can only be reached by boat or helicopter.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Thatta, and on the way to the badly-affected district of Badin, says that areas affected by last year's floods have not escaped the latest rains - although they seem to have escaped the worst so far.

Thatta now hosts a camp for 100 families who escaped the deluge further inland. But, our correspondent says, the Thatta market street is under water.

The United States has sent food and medical aid to Pakistan for the millions affected by flooding, which has now killed 226 people.

Food aid for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis has been despatched, a state department spokesperson told the AFP news agency. The US will also answer Pakistan's appeal for assistance by sending tents and other non-food items.

China has already pledged $4.7m (£2.96) for urgent humanitarian assistance

On Monday the UN said it had begun efforts to feed 500,000 people affected by the floods and rain, initially concentrating its efforts in the badly-hit Badin district of Sindh province.

Roads impassable

Pakistan's disaster management chief also warned that the situation is worsening each day as water levels are rising because of poor drainage.

In Karachi, the capital of Sindh, many streets were flooded and impassable to vehicles.

"I thought I would be able to make it to work, but it was a wrong decision. Now I am stuck. My car has broken down and I can't even find anyone for help," banker Khalid Hussain told Reuters news agency.

Many main roads have been inundated and the situation could become worse, the city's district co-ordinator told Reuters. Karachi's stock exchange was set to close early, but one report said it had reversed this plan.

Neighbouring India has also been affected by heavy monsoon rain.

The government in India's eastern Orissa state has intensified its efforts to deliver aid as more than one million people were displaced and at least 16 killed by floods in recent days.

About 2,600 villages have been submerged across 19 districts and 11 people are missing.

Officials there say the rains have eased somewhat but more is forecast for the coming days.


Rain compounding misery for Pakistan flood victims

The Associated Press, Sept. 13, 2011

BADIN, Pakistan (AP) — Stranded by floodwaters, army soldier Mohammed Hameed was unable to get to the graveyard to bury his 5-year-old daughter when she succumbed to diarrhea. He laid her to rest in his courtyard — one of the latest victims of floods that have returned to Pakistan this year, leaving some 200,000 homeless and triggering another international aid effort.

The scale of the disaster and the aid response is much less than last year, but the misery for those effected is just as real. The floods began early last month, but heavy rains have compounded them recently and hampered relief efforts.

On Tuesday, thousands of men, women and children lined the main road in Badin, the worst hit district around 200 kilometers from Karachi, the country's largest city. Some were sitting under plastic sheets held up by the branches of trees.

"There was heavy rain overnight and when we came out of our home we found ourselves stranded in high waters," said Sham Lal. He was with his seven children and a few household possessions by the side of the road, the highest ground around.

"There is nobody to rescue us and I am worried where to go," he said.

The affected area is southern Sindh province, which was also badly hit in the 2010 floods.

The United Nations is rushing food and tents there after Islamabad formally asked for foreign assistance this weekend. Japan and China have also pledged relief goods or money, according to the Pakistan government. The United States said it had paid for food packages for 23,000 families, and that its local partners would soon begin handing out tents, clean water and other supplies.

The return of the floods is testament to the heaviness of the monsoon rains that lash much of South Asia from June to September, as well as the limits of Pakistan's weak and corrupt government.

As they did last year, the floods are undercutting the legitimacy of the shaky government, which is already widely disliked and struggling against Islamist militants, ever present political turmoil and massive economic problems.

"The situation is extremely bad," said Provincial Minister Muzaffar Shajra Tuesday. "We cannot carry out relief operations because of continuos rains."

More than 200 people have been killed, 200,000 made homeless and 4.2 million acres of agricultural land have been inundated, authorities say. Most of the displaced are staying in camps, under whatever shelter they can find or in the open.

The town of Tando Bago, where Hameed lives, has been flooded with several feet of water in places, making it impossible for residents to bury their loved ones at a local graveyard, which is also flooded.

"We are stranded and we need to get out immediately to somewhere safer so we can survive," Hameed said by telephone. He buried his daughter in the courtyard of his house on Friday.

In 2010, the floods followed the course of the River Indus and its tributaries from the foothills of the Himalayas to the flatlands of Sindh, where the river empties out into the Arabian Sea.

As much as one-fifth of the country's landmass and 20 million people were affected at the peak, making it one of the largest natural disasters in recent history. The U.S. army deployed helicopters to ferry victims and aid around the country, and the U.N. and other international aid groups also helped.

Across the border in India, monsoon raids have also been causing havoc, killing at least 16 people and leaving nearly 100,000 others homeless in Orrissa state. The region has seen incessant rains for 10 days, a government minister there said.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.