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4 mn affected by Pak floods: UN
Islamabad, Aug 5 (Agencies):
Published on 5 Aug. 2010 10:36 PM IST
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Pakistan’s worst flooding in nearly a century has now affected more than four million people and left at least 1,600 dead, says the UN.
While floods in the north-west began to recede, the vast body of water has been moving down the country into new parts of Punjab and menacing Sindh province.
All wells have been contaminated and water-borne diseases have been spreading, officials say.
The region is midway through monsoon season and more rain is forecast.
Flood horrors ‘No government help’ UK broadcast appeal The number of affected districts in Punjab has reached seven, while 350,000 people have been moved from neighbouring Sindh province, most of which is on high alert, the United Nations said.
Manuel Bessler, who heads the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan, told a news conference in Geneva: “What we are facing now is a major catastrophe.”
He added: “We are only in the middle of the monsoon season, there is more rain expected. We are afraid it will get worse.”
With crops, homes, roads and bridges washed away, the human exodus continued on Thursday as yet more torrential rain fell.
In the worst-affected areas, houses, shops, petrol pumps and small villages have been submerged.
Fleeing villagers have waded barefoot through water up to their necks and chests, carrying belongings on their heads.
In Punjab, known as Pakistan’s “breadbasket” for its rich agriculture, more than 1,300 villages have been affected and at least 25,000 homes destroyed, said disaster relief officials in the province.
In this town in north-west Pakistan, the situation for thousands affected by the floods is grim. Nowshera took the full force of the flood waters as they came surging down the River Kabul, which runs through the centre of the town.
Dozens of people were killed and tens of thousands made homeless. Shock has turned to desperation as little or no government aid has reached the town.
Some food, clean water and medical supplies have been provided by local people, but nothing from the local or state authorities. About 10,000 homeless people have gathered on an open area of ground in front of a technical college in the town.
They are living in tents donated by an Islamic organisation, but in conditions of overwhelming squalor and filth. Things are getting worse every day.
Doctors, helping out under a tarpaulin to give them some protection from the fierce sun, say growing numbers of people, particularly children, are suffering from diarrhoea, skin diseases and malnutrition. Every day that passes, the situation gets worse.
In large tracts of Kot Addu and nearby Layyah, water levels were so high only treetops were visible.
In Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, at least 20 people died when a bus plunged into a rain-swollen river, a government official told AP news agency.
At a refugee camp in Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North West Frontier) province, Tahir Shah, a doctor, said most patients coming to him were suffering from stomach problems, chest infections and skin problems, caused mainly by dirty flood water.
Meanwhile, forecasters warned of further downpours for the north-west, which has not seen such flooding since 1929.
“The flood water is increasing at different points and we are expecting more rain in the next 24 hours,” Hazrat Mir, chief meteorologist for Punjab, told news agency AFP.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has sent a special envoy, Jean-Maurice Ripert, to Pakistan to help mobilise international support and aid flood victims.
Victims have bitterly accused the authorities of failing to come to their aid Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said about 100,000 people have been rescued.
The army has used boats and helicopters to evacuate stranded villagers to higher ground.
But government and civilian agencies have been struggling to get supplies to the worst affected areas.
Victims have bitterly accused the authorities of failing to come to their rescue and provide sufficient relief.
Particular scorn has been poured on President Asif Ali Zardari because he pressed ahead with a visit to Europe.
Mr Zardari is due to launch his son’s political career on Saturday in the British city of Birmingham.
The disaster has piled yet more pressure on a cash-strapped administration struggling to contain Taliban violence and an economic crisis.
Meanwhile, local Islamic charities with unconfirmed links to militant groups have reportedly been stepping into the breach to help flood victims.

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