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Millions hit by Pakistan floods
Islamabad, Aug 2 (Agencies):
Published on 3 Aug. 2010 1:17 AM IST
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Up to two-and-a-half million people have been affected by devastating floods in north-west Pakistan, the International Red Cross has said. At least 1,100 people have died and thousands have lost everything.
“In the worst-affected areas, entire villages were washed away without warning by walls of flood water,” the Red Cross said in a statement. There are fears diarrhoea and cholera will spread among the homeless. Food is scarce and water supplies have been contaminated by the floods.
From the air we’ve had a clear view of the destructive force of the monsoon rains. Muddy brown waters have submerged fields, bridges and roads, destroying crops and devastating communities. In some areas we’ve seen people wading, chest-deep, through the floods. In others, only the tops of trees have been visible.
We went to the city of Nowshera, one of the worst affected areas, where we saw several lakes - including one which covered the polo ground. Mud and rubble lined the streets.
We met people at a temporary camp who said they were being helped by the army, but they were worried about the future.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the Information Minister of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa (formerly North West Frontier Province), one of the worst-hit regions, said rescue teams were trying to reach 27,000 stranded people, including 1,500 tourists in the Swat Valley, the scene of a major military offensive against the Taliban last year.
“We are also getting confirmation of reports about an outbreak of cholera in some areas of Swat,” he added. The Pakistani military says it has committed 30,000 troops and dozens of helicopters to the relief effort, but winching individuals to safety is a slow process.
The army - which says it has rescued 28,000 people in recent days - predicts the initial search and rescue operation will take up to 10 days, says the BBC’s Orla Guerin, who has been on board a military helicopter over the Swat Valley. But the army says rebuilding the damaged areas could take six months or more.
A spokesman for the UK-based charity Save the Children told the BBC that the infrastructure damage in Swat may be worse than in the earthquake which devastated the region in 2005.
“We fear that in places that have not been accessed as yet there are people that were trapped, and there is a possibility of more deaths taking place,” the spokesman said.

Ahmadinejad says ready for ‘face-to-face’ talks with Obama
TEHRAN, AUG 2 (PTI): Hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday he was ready for “face-to-face” talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama on issues concerning the international community.
“We are hopefully coming for the UN assembly,” Ahmadinejad said in an address to expatriate Iranians which was broadcast live on state television.
“We are ready to sit down with Mr Obama face-to-face and put the global issues on the table, man-to-man, freely, and in front of the media and see whose solutions are better.”
Ahmadinejad is expected to travel to New York for the UN General Assembly meeting next month.

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