The break in the incessant rainfall of the past few days did not bring any respite for the people of the flood affected areas of Pakistan on Saturday as the death toll mounted amid fears of a possible outbreak of diseases as water levels recede and stagnate.
Though unofficial reports put the death toll in the vicinity of 800, the National Disaster Management Authority said the number of deaths reported stood at 494. However, government officials did not rule out the possibility of the toll being higher as many of the areas — particularly in the worst hit province of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) — are still inaccessible.
The worst affected areas are Peshawar, Swat, Nowshera, Lower Dir and Charsadda in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa; Kohlu, Barkhan, Sibi and Dera Murad Jamali in Balochistan; besides Dera Gazi Khan and Rajanpur in Punjab. In Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa, the multitudes stranded included Chinese workers in Kohistan district.
Several helicopters — including seven made available by the U.S. Embassy — have been pressed into service to help in the rescue efforts as well as drop relief material to those stranded on rooftops and dry patches of land as roads and bridges in many a place have been swept away.
According to the Director-General Inter Services Public Relations, Athar Abbas, the situation was critical in Swat and Nowshera areas of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa. Further, he said, 30,000 troops were involved in the rescue and relief operations and 19,000 people had been rescued from the marooned areas.
The estimate of the United Nations — which is helping Pakistan deal with the humanitarian crisis on hand owing to the floods — is that at least a million people across the country have already been affected and with another strong spell of monsoon rains expected in the coming weeks, there is fear of worse days ahead.