Thousands flee as floods spread in Pakistan

MEHMOOD KOT, Pakistan: Thousands fled devastating floods in Pakistan yesterday, wading through water or crammed into cars as officials warned that heavy rains threatened entire villages and that dams could burst.

FLOOD RELIEF: Flood victims raise their hands to collect relief supplies from the Army in Nowshera, located in Pakistan’s northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. — Reuters photo

FLOOD RELIEF: Flood victims raise their hands to collect relief supplies from the Army in Nowshera, located in Pakistan’s northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. — Reuters photo

The United Nations rushed a top envoy to Pakistan to mobilise international support and address the urgent plight of 3.2 million people and up to 1,500 people killed by torrential monsoon rains across the volatile country. The humanitarian disaster is now into a second week and relief workers are scrambling to help survivors who saw their villages and farmland washed away as rains spread into Pakistan’s most populous provinces of Punjab and Sindh.

“We have another weather warning system coming in Sindh province, which could create further increases in flooding,” UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Mogwanja told AFP, saying the world body had received US$18 million.

“We are in the process of preparing a broad flood emergency plan, which will be released early next week.” Heavy rain lashed the Punjab town Kot Addu, where the area was transformed into a giant lake.

Army helicopters flew overhead as people streamed out of flooded villages searching for safer ground, an AFP reporter said.

“All these villages are dangerous now. We are evacuating the population,” said Manzoor Sarwar, police chief for Muzaffargarh district.

“Important installations are in danger. We have taken all possible steps to save people’s lives and important installations,” he said. But victims lashed out at authorities for failing to come to their rescue and provide better relief, piling pressure

on a cash-strapped administration straining to contain Taliban violence and economic crisis.

“Everybody is leaving. We came out empty-handed. We didn’t have enough time to take our belongings,” Ghulam Mustafa, 26 told AFP in Mehmood Kot, a village about six hours’ drive south of Lahore, the capital of Punjab. Flood waters continued spreading into Punjab, the country’s most populous province.

“The flood water is increasing at different points and we are expecting more rain in next 24 hours,” Hazrat Mir, chief metreologist for Punjab, told AFP.

“This is an alarming situation. Conditions are miserable in those areas, particularly at Tounsa and Gaddu barrages. There are extremely high floods at Kot Addu and other parts.”

The number of affected districts in Punjab rose to seven and alert warnings were issued in five districts of Sindh to the south, the United Nations said.  — AFP

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