Nearly 1,000 dead in Pakistan floods: Officials

ISLAMABAD — Flash floods triggered by torrential monsoon rains across much of Pakistan have killed nearly 1,000 people and injured and displaced thousands more since mid-June, officials said Saturday.

The new death toll came a day after Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif appealed for international help to combat deadly flood damage in the impoverished Islamic nation.

The monsoon season, which started earlier than normal this year, has lashed Pakistan with particularly heavy rains and rescue teams are scrambling to evacuate thousands of stranded people from flood-hit areas. The crisis forced the government to declare a state of emergency.

In the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, floods destroyed the gates of a major water control system in the Swat River, leading to flooding in Charsadda and Nowshera districts, said Sania Safi, chief administrator in Charsadda.

“We got ahead of the situation and warned and forced hesitant residents to leave their homes for safety and move to relief camps set up in government buildings in safe locations,” she said.

Safi said there is concern of further rising of the Swat and Kabul rivers, adding to the misery of residents who have already suffered loss of life and property.

In Nowshera district, local administrator Quratul Ain Wazir said floods submerged streets before gushing waters headed for low-lying areas.

“Our administration evacuated many people and took others to relief camps where the government provided beds and food in safe buildings,” she said. … “We will use the police to force those who hesitate to leave their homes.”

Khushal Wahab, who lives in a submerged neighborhood in Nowshera, said residents remember the catastrophic floods that occurred in 2010 and many of them had evacuated fearing such a danger. “People are scared,” he said.

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb said soldiers and rescue organizations were helping people reach safety in many areas of South Sindh, North-West Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, East Punjab and South-West Balochistan provinces.

“Government has sanctioned enough funds to financially compensate the affected people and we will not leave our people alone at this difficult time,” she said.

Aurangzeb asked rich people and humanitarian organizations to come forward to help the flood-affected Pakistanis.

In response to Sharif’s call for international aid, the United Nations is planning an emergency appeal for $160 million in donations, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Asim Iftikhar. He said at his weekly briefing on Friday that the appeal would be made on August 30.

The scenic Kalam Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is one of the areas most affected by the rains and floods. Water from overflowing rivers washed away entire buildings, including an emblematic hotel.

“The situation is quite serious as we have no road connection left with the rest of the province, we have no electricity, gas and communication network and there is no relief here,” said Muzaffar Khan, whose grocery store was swept away along with many other shops.

Thousands whose homes were swept away are now living in tents, miles from their flooded villages and towns, after being rescued by soldiers, local disaster workers and volunteers, authorities said.

In Balochistan, Asadullah Nasir, spokesman for the provincial disaster management authority, said all 34 districts of the impoverished province were badly affected by heavy rain and flooding. He said road networks had been destroyed and bridges swept away, and relief was only possible by deploying helicopters, which were often unable to operate due to bad weather. He said provincial authorities had confirmed 235 deaths, but the number was expected to rise significantly after communications were restored.

In the eastern province of Punjab, Rajan Pur district appears to be the worst affected along with Dera Ghazi Khan district. Thousands of mud and brick houses were flooded, most of them completely destroyed or at least partially destroyed.

Residents left homeless by the flood took shelter on higher ground, where they awaited humanitarian goods and other aid.

Rahim Hassan, 52, said he lost his home and two children, a daughter and son, aged 14 and 16, respectively.

“I have nothing left in my life, my home was destroyed and my children swept away by gushing water and now we lie helpless on this road under the open sky where we are being fed by soldiers,” he said.

The National Disaster Management Authority in its latest overnight report said 45 people died in flood-related incidents from Friday to Saturday. This brought the death toll since mid-June to 982 with 1,456 injured.

Monsoon rains are expected to continue this week, mainly in the south and southwest. The season usually lasts from July to mid-September in Pakistan.

Torrential rains and subsequent flash floods damaged bridges and road networks in Pakistan, disrupting the supply of fruits and vegetables to markets and causing prices to spike.

Much of neighboring Afghanistan was also affected by heavy rain and flooding. Mohammad Nasim Haqqani, a spokesman for the country’s National Disaster Management Ministry, said at least seven people were killed in the eastern province of Nangarhar in a 24-hour period and more than 600 others were rescued by Defense Ministry helicopters . The seven are in addition to the 182 deaths reported earlier in the week.

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