Deaths from monsoon floods drenched Pakistan nearly 1,000

ISLAMA BAD — Flash floods caused by heavy monsoon rains across much of Pakistan have killed nearly 1,000 people and injured and displaced thousands more since mid-June, officials said on Saturday.

The new death toll came a day after Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif called for international help to fight deadly damage from flooding in the impoverished Muslim country.

The monsoon season, which started earlier than usual this year, has ravaged Pakistan with particularly heavy rainfall and rescuers are struggling to evacuate thousands of stranded people from flood plains. The crisis forced the government to declare a state of emergency.

In northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, floods destroyed the gates of a major water control system on the Swat River, leading to flooding in Charsadda and Nowshera districts, said Sania Safi, a top Charsadda administrator.

“We have anticipated the situation and warned and forced reluctant residents to leave their homes for safety and move to shelters located in safe areas in government buildings,” she said.

Safi said there were concerns about a further rise in the Swat and Kabul rivers, adding to the misery of residents who have already suffered loss of life and property.

In the Nowshera district, local administrator Quratul Ain Wazir said the water flooded the streets before rushing water to low-lying areas.

“Our government has evacuated many people and taken others to relief camps where the government has provided beds and food in safe buildings,” she said. … “We will use the police to get those who hesitate to leave their homes.”

Khushal Wahab, who lives in a neighborhood in Nowshera that is under water, said residents remembered the catastrophic flooding that happened in 2010 and many evacuated fearing the same danger. “People are scared,” he says.

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb said soldiers and rescue organizations helped people get to safety in many districts in southern Sindh, northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, eastern Punjab and southwestern Baluchistan provinces.

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“The government has sanctioned sufficient resources to financially compensate the affected people and we will not leave our people alone during this difficult time,” she said.

Aurangzeb asked wealthy people and aid organizations to provide assistance to help the flood-affected Pakistanis.

In response to Sharif’s appeal for international aid, the United Nations planned a $160 million flash appeal for donations, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Asim Iftikhar. He said in his weekly briefing Friday that the appeal will be filed on August 30.

The picturesque Kalam Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province is one of the areas most affected by the rains and floods. The water from overflowing rivers swept away entire buildings, including an iconic hotel.

“The situation is quite serious because we have no road connection to the rest of the province, we have no electricity, gas and communication network and no help is coming here,” said Muzaffar Khan, whose supermarket has been wiped out along with many other stores.

Thousands whose homes were swept away now live in tents miles from their flooded towns and cities, after being rescued by soldiers, local disaster workers and volunteers, authorities said.

In Baluchistan, Asadullah Nasir, a spokesman for the provincial disaster relief authority, said all 34 districts of the impoverished province were badly affected by heavy rains and flooding. He said road networks were being destroyed and bridges were washed away and that help was only possible by deploying helicopters, which are often unable to operate due to bad weather. He said provincial officials have confirmed 235 deaths, but the number is expected to increase significantly after communications are restored.

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In the eastern province of Punjab, Rajan Pur district along with Dera Ghazi Khan district appeared to be the hardest hit. Thousands of houses of clay and brick were flooded by water, most completely destroyed or at least partially destroyed.

Residents made homeless by the flooding took refuge on higher ground, where they waited for relief supplies and other aid.

Rahim Hasan, 52, said he lost his home and two children – a daughter and a son, aged 14 and 16 respectively.

“I have nothing left in life, my house has been destroyed and my children have been swept away by running water and now we lie helpless on this road in the open where soldiers feed us,” he said.

The National Disaster Management Authority said in its latest overnight report that 45 people died in flood-related incidents from Friday to Saturday. That brought the death toll since mid-June to 982 with 1,456 injured.

Monsoon rains are expected to continue this week, especially in the south and southwest. The season usually runs from July to mid-September in Pakistan.

Heavy rains and subsequent flash floods have damaged bridges and road networks across Pakistan, disrupting the supply of fruit and vegetables to markets and driving prices up.

Much of neighboring Afghanistan was also hit by heavy rainfall and flooding. Mohammad Nasim Haqqani, spokesman for the national ministry of emergency response, said at least seven people were killed in a 24-hour period in eastern Nangarhar province and more than 600 others were rescued by Defense Ministry helicopters. The seven and 182 fatalities were announced dead earlier in the week.

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Associated Press reporters Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Abdul Sattar in Quetta and Asim Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan and Rahim Faiez in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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