Floods wreak havoc in Pakistan; 903 dead since mid-June

ISLAMA BAD — Heavy rains since mid-June have caused flash flooding and extensive damage across much of Pakistan, killing 903 and leaving about 50,000 homeless, the country’s disaster agency said on Wednesday.

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

The National Disaster Management Authority said on Wednesday that 126 people have died in flood-related incidents in the past 48 hours, with most of the victims being women and children.

The floods have further exacerbated Pakistan’s economic crisis. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif issued an appeal from abroad on Wednesday, urging philanthropists to help flood-affected areas in Pakistan.

Sharif is currently in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where he arrived on Tuesday, seeking financial aid, loans and foreign investment for his ailing Islamic nation. His government has promised to compensate those who have lost their homes due to the flooding.

After talks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Wednesday, Sharif announced that the Qatari Investment Authority is willing to invest $3 billion in Pakistan. The trip is Sharif’s first official visit to Qatar as prime minister since he replaced Imran Khan, who was ousted in April for mistrust in parliament.

After flooding much of southwestern Baluchistan and eastern Punjab province, flash flooding is now beginning to hit southern Sindh province. Authorities closed schools in Sindh and Baluchistan this week.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, tweeted on Tuesday that local authorities cannot handle it alone and called on the global community to help.

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Footage from Pakistani television showed people wading through the medium-high water on Wednesday, holding their children and carrying essential items on their heads. Rescue workers used trucks and boats to evacuate people to safer places, and food, tents and other basic necessities were sent to flooded areas.

In some places, the popular Geo TV reported, families struggled to bury their loved ones as local cemeteries were also inundated by flooding. The TV broadcast images of mourners carrying coffins through flooded areas to bury the dead, away from flooded homes.

The monsoon rains, which started in mid-June, are expected to continue this week, especially in the south.

Murad Ali Shah, the top elected official in Sindh province, said the situation was worse than in 2010, when floods killed at least 1,700 people in Pakistan, mostly in Sindh. “We are doing our best to evacuate people from flood areas,” he said on Tuesday.

Floods have damaged as many as 129 bridges across Pakistan, disrupting the supply of fruits and vegetables to the markets and driving up prices.

Experts say climate change has led to erratic weather in Pakistan, resulting in cloudbursts and the melting of glaciers that have swollen rivers. They say limiting emissions of greenhouse gases that warm the planet will help curb more drastic weather events around the world, including in this South Asian country.

“In recent decades, we have never witnessed such an unusually heavier downpour in Pakistan,” scientist Shahla Gondal said, adding that authorities are ill-equipped and “don’t know how” to deal with flood disasters.

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