- The flood killed at least 1,100, affected 33 million
- A third of the country is under water – Climate Minister
- Climate disaster in Pakistan needs world focus – Guterres
- Havoc ‘internationally driven’ – UN Harneis
CHARSADDAH, Pakistan (Reuters) – Heavy rains and floods inundated a third of Pakistan and killed more than 1,100 people, including 380 children, as the United Nations appealed on Tuesday for help in what it called an “unprecedented climate catastrophe.”
Army helicopters grabbed stranded families and dropped food parcels into inaccessible areas with the historic flood, caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains, destroying homes, businesses, infrastructure and crops, affecting 33 million people, 15% of the country. Located in South Asia with a population of 220 million people.
The country received nearly 190% more rain than the 30-year average in the quarter ending August this year, for a total of 390.7 mm (15.38 in). The province of Sindh, with a population of 50 million, was the hardest hit, with 466% more rain compared to the 30-year average.
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“Literally a third of the country is under water,” Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman told Reuters. She described the scale of the disaster as “a previously unknown catastrophe”.
She said the water won’t recede any time soon.
At least 380 children were among the dead, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif told reporters during a briefing at his office in Islamabad.
“Pakistan is mired in suffering,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message as the United Nations launched an appeal for $160 million to help the South Asian country. “Pakistani people are facing monsoons due to stimulants – the relentless effect of precipitation levels and floods.”
A UN spokesman said Guterres would travel to Pakistan next week to see the effects of an “unprecedented climate catastrophe”.
The scale of the climate catastrophe, he said, captured the world’s collective attention.
Nearly 300 stranded people, including some tourists, were airlifted in northern Pakistan on Tuesday, while more than 50,000 people were taken to two government shelters in the northwest of the country, the state disaster management agency said in a statement.
“Life is very painful here,” Hussein Sadiq, 63, a villager in a shelter with his parents and five children, told Reuters, adding that his family had “lost everything”.
Hussain said medical assistance was insufficient, and that diarrhea and fever were rife in the shelter.
Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited the northern Swat valley and reviewed rescue and relief operations, saying that “rehabilitation will take a long time”.
Its embassy in Islamabad said in a statement that the United States will provide $30 million to support Pakistan’s response to the floods through the US Agency for International Development, saying the country is “deeply saddened by the devastating loss of lives, livelihoods, and homes across Pakistan.” Read more
duty to help
Initial estimates put the damages from the floods in excess of $10 billion, the government said, adding that the world is obligated to help Pakistan adapt to the effects of man-made climate change. Read more
The prime minister said the losses are likely to be much higher.
Heavy rains caused flash floods that fell from the northern mountains, destroyed buildings and bridges, and washed away existing and stored crops and roads.
Huge amounts of water flow into the Indus River, which flows in the center of the country from its northern peaks to the southern plains, causing floods along its length.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said hundreds of thousands of people were living in the open without access to food, clean water, shelter or basic health care.
Guterres said the $160 million he had hoped to raise with the appeal would provide 5.2 million people with food, water, sanitation, emergency education and health support.
Prime Minister Sharif said the amount of aid needs to be “quickly doubled”, pledging that “every penny will reach the needy and there will be no waste at all”.
Sharif fears the devastation will further derail an economy that was already in turmoil, potentially leading to severe food shortages and increasing inflation, which hit 24.9% in July.
He said wheat sowing may also be delayed and to mitigate the impact of this, Pakistan is already in talks with Russia on wheat imports.
General Akhtar Nawaz, head of the National Disaster Agency, said that at least 72 districts out of 160 Pakistani provinces were declared disaster-struck.
He said that the floods inundated more than two million acres (809371 hectares) of agricultural land.
Bhutto Zardari said that Pakistan has become the starting point of global warming.
“The situation is likely to deteriorate further as heavy rains continue over areas already inundated by more than two months of storms and floods,” he said.
Guterres appealed for a quick response to Pakistan’s request from the international community for help, and called for an end to “the sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet due to climate change.”
“The severe monsoon floods tell us there is no time to lose, and the climate tipping point is here,” said Rehman, Minister of Climate Change, adding that Pakistan is looking out for the developed world not to be allowed to pay for other countries’ carbon-supported development.
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(covering) by Asif Shehzad and Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad and Gibran Beshmam in Kabul; Editing by Robert Percell, Bernadette Baum and Sandra Mahler
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