Pakistan Inundated By Worst Floods in Living Memory

Pakistan Inundated By Worst Floods in Living Memory

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, August 2, 2010 (ENS) – More than 1,100 people have died in the flooding in Northwestern Pakistan, let loose by hard-driving monsoon rains said to be the worst since 1929. By some estimates the death toll has reached 1,400.

Lt-Gen Nadeem Ahmed, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, told the media in Islamabad that, in addition, about 2.5 million people “have been displaced by floods across the country.”

The UN World Health Organization reports some 27,000 people are still waiting to be evacuated from flooded areas in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, KPK, formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province.

The parts of Pakistan affected most by the flooding are among the poorest in the country, where the UN World Food Programme is already helping nearly three million people uprooted by violence along the border with Afghanistan.

Residents of Nowshera, Pakistan cope with floodwaters. July 30, 2010 (Photo by A.H.)

The worst affected areas are Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsada, Swat, Shangla, Kohistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where thousands of people are stranded on rooftops, and the Upper Neelam Valley in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The National Disaster Management Authority reports dozens of deaths in Punjab and Balochistan provinces as well.

The floods have caused major damage to infrastructure, including roads and dozens of bridges, and have knocked out phone and cell phone services. In addition, more than 25,000 homes have been destroyed.

Entire communities of mud-brick houses are reported to have been swept away, and some provincial cities have been isolated after road and rail links were severed.

Floods have inundated the Dera Ismail Khan Airport, or D.I. Khan Airport, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, one of only two airports connecting the southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with other parts of the country.

A rapid assessment mission headed by UN Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Magwanja visited Nowshera and Charsada district by helicopter as there is no road access to these flooded districts. Due to bad weather the mission could not reach Swat and Shangla districts.

A convoy of UN trucks loaded with relief supplies for flood survivors arrives in Charsada district in northwest Pakistan. August 2, 2010. (Photo by D.A. Khan courtesy UNHCR)

The flyover mission included officials from the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, and UN-Habitat. Their report warns that cases of diarrhea are increasing due to contaminated water; the district health staff are affected by the floods and stocks of medicines are damaged or destroyed in most health facilities.

There is an urgent need for diarrhea treatment kits, psychosocial support, hygiene promotion interventions, the chlorination of water, tents for temporary health facilities and vaccination campaigns, according to the WHO.

Khalid Randhawa, the district health officer for Rawalpindi District in the northern province of Punjab, told reporters that “standing water had increased the chances of a spike in dengue fever in the weeks to come.” The aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the deadly fever, breeds in standing water.

The rains stopped on Sunday, but Pakistan’s Meteorological Department forecasts more rainstorms starting today that are expected to affect Sindh and Punjab provinces.

At the same time, these provinces will see a surge in river levels, as water from swollen KPK rivers flows south. The country’s largest rivers, including the Indus, Jhelum and Kabul, are expected to reach dangerously high levels. Authorities have begun evacuating people from low-lying areas.

Pakistani Air Force members help unload thousands of Halal meals from a U.S. Air Force C-130H at Peshawar, Pakistan, August 1, 2010. (Photo courtesy U.S. State Dept.)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he is “deeply saddened by the significant loss of lives, livelihoods and infrastructure in Pakistan,” pledging the UN’s “full commitment” to supporting authorities to meet humanitarian needs.

Ban announced that up to $10 million will be disbursed from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund.

The United States has made an initial commitment of $10 million in aid and is rushing helicopters, boats, pre-fabricated bridges, mobile water treatment units, and emergency food supplies to meet Pakistan’s humanitarian needs.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday, “The Pakistani people are friends and partners, and the United States is standing with them as the tragic human toll mounts from flooding in Northwest Pakistan.”

The World Food Programme has begun distributing food to more than 35,000 families. The first emergency rations for flood victims reached some 3,000 families Sunday in Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda.

Over the next two to three months, the agency plans to scale up its assistance to feed up to 150,000 more families who lost what little they had to the floodwaters.

“We are deeply saddened to hear that so many people who have already suffered terribly in recent years are now seeing their lives washed away. We stand with them as they deal with this enormous shock,” said World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran. “WFP is mobilizing every possible resource to make sure their needs are met as quickly as is humanly possible.”

A WFP warehouse for food supplies for both Pakistan and Afghanistan also has sustained damage, which could further complicate efforts to distribute urgently-needed supplies.

WFP is assisting with the Pakistani government’s damage assessment in the worst affected districts, as well as working to determine the extent of the damage across the border in Afghanistan, where heavy flooding has also been reported.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.

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