Monsoon-driven floods are reported to have killed at least 800 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the past week, officials said Saturday, as some of the one million Pakistanis affected were reported with fevers, diarrhea and other waterborne illnesses.
With more rain forecast for all but the northwest part of the country, water levels in dams and barrages across the country continued to rise alarmingly, raising the likelihood of more flash floods and landslides and leading government officials to plead for international aid.
The latest disaster to strike the country is testing the relief capacity of a federal government that is struggling to find resources to fight an Islamic insurgency, according to Pakistani and United Nations officials, and to cope with the aftermath of Wednesday’s plane crash in the fog- and rain-shrouded Himalayan foothills just outside this capital city.
It was the worst aviation accident in Pakistan’s history, killing 152 people. Pakistani officials announced Saturday that they had recovered the plane’s black box, paving the way for a formal investigation into the crash.
The sheer scale of the floods and the government’s inability to provide immediate relief has led to widespread resentment and bitterness amongst those affected. Displaced people have reacted angrily, contacting local reporters and accusing government officials of apathy and incompetence.
Television stations have broadcast grim images of people stranded on rooftops and wading through muddy water as they wait for rescuers or try to recover valuables from houses.
President Asif Ali Zardari, who is scheduled to visit Britain this week, has been criticism by his political opponents, who want him to cancel his trip and focus on relief efforts.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, formerly the North-West Frontier Province, which is already ravaged by terrorism, has experienced the worst flooding. Roads and communications systems there have been badly damaged and bridges have washed away. Floods have also affected parts of Punjab Province.
“This is the worst ever flood in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial information minister, said Saturday. He put the death toll at 800, but aid workers said it was too early to know the final toll of deaths and property damage.
Army rescue teams using helicopters, trucks and boats were helping the government reach those who were stranded and airlift them to safety.
“We are carrying out this rescue despite limited resources,” Lutfur Rehman, a government official in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, told The Associated Press, adding that they needed more helicopters and boats.NYT