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Thousands flee as fresh floods hit Pakistan
Islamabad, Aug 22 (Agencies):
Published on 22 Aug. 2010 11:46 PM IST
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Thousands more people in Pakistan have been forced to flee their homes as fresh flooding has submerged dozens more towns and villages in the south.
Around 150,000 Pakistanis in Sindh province have been evacuated to higher ground because of the swollen Indus River, a government spokesman said.
Officials expect the floodwaters to recede nationwide in the next few days as the last river torrents empty into the Arabian Sea.
But survivors may find little left when they return home - the waters have washed away houses, roads, bridges and crops, and leaving millions homeless and penniless.
In Sindh, there are already 600,000 people in relief camps set up during the flooding.
At a camp in the Sukkur area, some victims said it was difficult to get access to food dropped off by relief trucks.
“I am a widow, and my children are too young to get food because of the chaos and rush,” Parveen Roshan said.
“How can weak women win a fight with men to get food?”
Nearby, a doctor treated a boy whose back was injured after someone pushed him during a scramble for food at a truck.
The floods, which began in late July after exceptionally heavy monsoon rains, have affected about one third of the country.
At least 20 million people have been affected overall, with six million made homeless and eight million in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The official death toll is around 1,500 but the true number of victims may turn out to be higher because large areas of the country are still inaccessible, officials say.
The United Nations has appealed for $460m (£296m) in emergency assistance, of which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said about 60% had been pledged.
Pakistan has also accepted $5m (£3.2m) in aid from India, its archrival.
The crisis has raised concerns about the Pakistani government which has been criticised by its slow response to the disaster.
Aid groups have been trying to help the government in its relief effort by providing food, medicine, shelter and other crucial assistance.
But continued poor weather and the destruction of roads and bridges have hindered the distribution.
Meanwhile, a bomb exploded at a checkpoint jointly manned by pro-government tribesmen and police in Mohmand in the north west, killing six people, a government official said.
The bombing underscored the fear that militants still pose a challenge to the government, which has carried out operations to flush Taliban and their supporters from the region.
Int’l aid for Pakistan floods over $800M: Official
THATTA, Aug 22 (AP): The world has given or pledged more than $800 million to help Pakistan cope with massive floods, the foreign minister said Sunday, as a surging river in the south led authorities to urge thousands more people to evacuate.
Pakistan is grateful for the international assistance, which came after the United Nations appealed for $460 million in aid for the deluged country, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
“The total commitments and pledges that Pakistan has got so far are $815.58 million,” he told reporters in Islamabad. “In these circumstances, when the West and Europe and America are going through a recession ... this kind of solidarity for Pakistan, I think, is very encouraging.”
The floods began in late July in the northwest after exceptionally heavy monsoon rains, expanding rivers that have since swamped eastern Punjab province and Sindh province in the south. The deluge has affected about one-fifth of Pakistan’s territory, straining the civilian government as it also struggles against al-Qaida and Taliban violence.
At least 6 million people have been made homeless and 20 million affected overall.
Aid flowed relatively slowly to Pakistan in the first weeks of the crisis, apparently in part because many countries were unaware of the vast scope of the damage. A relatively low death toll — around 1,500 people — may have contributed to misimpressions, analysts have said.
The U.S. has promised $150 million to help the country whose support it considers critical to winning the war in Afghanistan. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged nations to step up aid after a visit to Pakistan.
The floods are still wreaking havoc.
Three towns in the southern Sindh province’s Thatta district were in danger over the weekend, and officials were urging thousands to leave the area. The surge in the Indus River is expected to empty into the Arabian Sea after passing through.
At least two levees along the river are potential trouble spots and are being strengthened, said Hadi Bakhsh Kalhoro, an official with the Sindh provincial Disaster Management Authority.
“We are hopeful the flood will pass on to the delta without creating much trouble here,” he said.
In many areas, ordinary Pakistanis set out by themselves to strengthen levees with sandbags and stones.
“We are doing it on our own,” Thatta resident Munawar Ali told Dunya TV. “We are not seeing any government agency here to help us save our lives and our belongings.”
Pakistan can ill afford the crisis. The South Asian country’s economy was already being kept afloat by billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund, and the cost of rebuilding after the floods will likely run into the billions.
The IMF said it will meet with Pakistani officials this week to discuss the floods and what the country must do to cope.
“The IMF stands with Pakistan at this difficult time and will do its part to help the country,” said Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department.
Gilani defends accepting Indian aid for flood victims
Lahore, Aug 22 (PTI): Amid criticism by some Pakistani politicians of his government’s decision to accept USD five million in Indian aid for flood victims, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said it will be a “narrow approach” to refuse such an offer.
He said those opposed to taking aid from India should give reasons for their stand.
“I would like to ask the critics of Indian aid on what ground we should refuse it. It will be a narrow approach if we refuse aid from India,” Gilani told reporters at his residence here.
After dilly-dallying for several days, Pakistan recently accepted India’s offer to provide USD 5 million for the millions of victims of the devastating floods that have swept the country.
Gilani said the move has enhanced Pakistan’s diplomatic image.
But, the move has been criticised by some politicians. The government has accepted the Indian aid offer on the US call,” Senator Raja Zafar ul Haq, chairman of PML-N party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said.
“It was earlier reported in the media but the Foreign Minister (Shah Mahmood Qureshi) made it public on Friday. The US had urged Pakistan to accept the Indian aid offer,” Haq was quoted as saying by the ‘Jang’ newspaper.
Former Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar was quoted as saying that “it is beyond understanding that the government accepted the offer after few days.”
However, Gilani said: “Would it not be a contrast if we refused the aid? On the one hand, we are stressing on the resumption of dialogue with India and on the other, we refuse its aid. We should come out of this approach and give a strong image to Pakistan.”
He said he was chairing a high-level meeting when he was informed about India’s offer to provide aid. “I told my Foreign Minister to thank his Indian counterpart for the aid,” he said.
Gilani noted that both Pakistanis and Indians had collected funds for the flood-affected people.
Pakistan has received a tremendous response from the world community in response to its call for aid for the flood victims and the government has proposed an independent council to oversee the transparent spending of funds, he said.
“The international community trusted us and that is why such huge aid is pouring in,” he said.

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