Pakistan authorities warn of more floods as more monsoon rain adds to relief urgency

By Ashraf Khan, AP
Monday, August 16, 2010

Pakistan warns of more floods as heavy rains fall

SUKKUR, Pakistan — Heavy rain lashed the makeshift camps housing Pakistan’s flood survivors Monday and authorities warned of more flooding this week, adding to the urgency of the massive international relief effort.

Pakistan’s worst floods in recorded history began more than two weeks ago in the mountainous northwest and have spread throughout the country. Some 20 million people and 160,000 square kilometers (61,776 miles) of land — about 1/5 of the country — have been affected.

The scale of the disaster has raised concerns it could destabilize the country, which is pivotal to U.S. hopes of defeating al-Qaida and the Taliban, has a weak and unpopular government, and an anemic economy propped up by international assistance.

“Floods seem to be chasing us everywhere,” said 45-year-old Ali Bakhsh Bhaio, as monsoon downpours pounded his tent beside the major highway in Sukkur, a hard-hit area in Sindh province. “Allah is punishing us for our sins.”

The Sindh irrigation minister, Jam Saifullah Dharejo, said the dam in Sukkur faced a major test of its strength as floodwaters coursed down the Indus River into Pakistan’s highly populated agricultural heartland.

“The coming four to five days are still crucial,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew over the flood-hit area Sunday and said he had never seen a disaster on such a scale. He urged the international community to speed up assistance.

The world body has appealed for an initial $460 million to provide relief, of which around 60 percent has been given.

The latest flooding over the weekend hit a poor region on the border between Sindh and Baluchistan provinces.

Sher Khan Bazai, the top government official in Nasirabad district, said 25,000 families had been made homeless by waters 8 feet (2 1/2 meters) high in some places. He said that some 4,000 small villages had been either cut off or washed out.

“Water is everywhere,” he said.

Once the floods recede, billions more will be needed for reconstruction and getting people back to work in the already-poor nation of 170 million people. The International Monetary Fund has warned that the floods could dent economic growth and fuel inflation.

While local charities and international agencies have helped hundreds of thousands of people with food, water, shelter and medical treatment, the scale of the disaster has meant that many millions have received little or no assistance. The U.N. has voiced fears that disease in overcrowded and unsanitary relief camps may yet cause more deaths.

Associated Press Writer Abdul Sattar in Quetta contributed to this report.

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