Pakistan begins flood relief effort

Pakistan has launched a relief operation for about 20,000 people stricken by the heaviest rains in 16 years as the toll from a burst dam reached 70, provincial officials said.

    Rescue workers survey a bridge swept away in Baluchistan

    Authorities sent in thousands of troops to help with rescue operations in the remote southwestern province of Baluchistan.

    Villages near the coastal town of Pasni bore the brunt of the destruction caused when the Shadikor Dam burst, sweeping away many people and houses.

    Provincial minister Sher Jan Baluch said the toll from the disaster had risen to 70 after 10 people died of their injuries. Local government spokesman Razak Bugti said 500 people were missing.

    Villages under water

    Pasni is about 800km south of the provincial capital, Quetta. More than 40 people have been killed in other rain-affected parts of the province.

    About 500 people are still
    missing since the dam broke

    Officials said five villages, home to about 7000 people, had been submerged by the waters pouring from the breach in the dam, a 35m-high embankment 300m long constructed two years ago.

    "Relief work is in full swing, but it will take some time to assess the exact extent of the damage," Baluch said. Officials say 6000 army, paramilitary and navy troops had been mobilised.

    Relief operation

    One military official in Quetta said two army transport planes were flying in later on Saturday carrying food, blankets, tents and other emergency supplies.

    He said 70 trucks carrying relief assistance had also been dispatched to the affected areas.

    Pakistan has seen the heaviest
    rain falls in 16 years

    Three bridges along the main coastal highway had been washed away, and helicopters were flying over flooded areas to help rescue efforts.

    President Pervez Musharraf said he was going to visit the
    area to personally take charge.

    "I will oversee relief operations. A C-130 plane is standing
    before me," Musharraf told Geo Television from Gawadar airport.

    Heavy snowfall

    Elsewhere in Pakistan, newspaper reports said 150 people had been killed and many were missing after torrential rains and heavy snowfall in the North West Frontier Province, bordering Afghanistan.

    In the worst single incident, about 33 Kashmiri villagers
    perished in an avalanche that struck Mathawali Siri hamlet in
    the Neelam Valley, Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern
    Areas Faisal Saleh Hayat told Reuters.

    Most of the deaths were due to avalanches, flash floods or roof collapses. There was no word on the fate of about 30 soldiers caught in an avalanche in the province's remote Teerah valley on Thursday.

    The Northern Areas, where the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountain ranges meet, have been cut off, with roads buried under several feet of snow and the Chitral valley particularly badly affected.

    The Karakoram Highway, linking Pakistan and China, has been blocked, and flights in and out of the region have been suspended since 3 February.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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