Torrential rains hampered rescue work on Sunday in several areas in Pakistan where more than 1,600 people have been killed and 1.5 million more affected in the worst flooding in 80 years, officials said.
The helicopter fleet was grounded due to bad weather and swelling rivers and streams washed away more bridges in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, making it difficult to reach tens of thousands of people stranded in remote districts.
The Meteorological Department predicted further rains until Tuesday in the northern parts of the country, and issued flood warnings for 10 rivers across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Relief work hit
“Our relief activities are already constrained by the lack of resources available. More rains are making things worse for us,” Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial information minister, said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters on Sunday that the country did not have the “capacity” to deal with the massive disaster. He appealed to the international community for help.
New floods killed 173 people in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and northern Pakistan, The News International daily reported on Sunday. Seventy people were believed dead, when their truck overturned in a rushing stream in Lower Dir district. The bodies had not yet been found.
Several towns in central province of Punjab were still under water. Stranded residents were facing a shortage of food, clean water and medicines. At some relief camps, mothers pleaded for milk powder for babies.
“I am stuck here at the roof of my house. We have little food left,” said Nasir Almani, a resident of Muzaffargarh district. “I can see dead bodies floating in the water. Dozens are missing.”
More devastating than 2005 quake
U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, Jean-Maurice Ripert, told German Radio ARD that the current floods were more devastating that the 2005 earthquake that killed over 70,000 people in Pakistan. “Once the earthquake has struck, you know exactly what to do in a very clearly defined zone. The drama with the floods is that is lasting now for 10 days and it’s moving. You cannot deploy the capacity you have as fast as the river,” he added.
The Pakistani military said Saturday that soldiers had rescued more than 100,000 people from flooded areas. Officials estimated that 650,000 houses and 200,000 hectares of crops had been destroyed by the floods.
Anger is growing among the flood victims and general public over the slow rescue and relief efforts by the government. The criticism is particularly directed at President Asif Ali Zardari, who continued his visits of France and England despite the floods.