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Central & South Asia
Pakistan floods trigger mass exodus
Thousands flee homes in Punjab as worst floods in country's history threaten southern regions.
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2010 15:30 GMT


Sohail Rahman reports from flood-hit Swat Valley on desperate evacuation efforts to save the stranded

Thousands of people in Pakistan's Punjab province are fleeing their homes as the worst floods in the country's history threaten more areas in the south.

Floodwaters have submerged numerous villages and begun to pour into major urban centres like the city of Kot Addu in Punjab.

UN and Pakistani officials say 3.2 million people are affected by the floods along the Indus River, and that at least 1,500 people have died in the past week.

"We have been able to see a mass exodus of people in south Punjab and the water is still rising", Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder said on Wednesday.

Hurried evacuation

"People are evacuating in a hurry, complaining that they have not received any help from the government," he said.

At least 47 people had been killed in Punjab, Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority said.

in depth

 

  Blogs:
  A natural, political crisis
  Swat is bent and broken
  Water, water all around but not a drop to drink
  Videos:
  Pakistanis 'left with nothing'
  Anger over flood response
  Pakistan's worst floods
  Inside Story: Pakistan's devastating floods
  In pictures: Pakistan plagued by floods

Nearly 1,000 villages have been affected and some 15,000 houses destroyed in the province, according to the UN.

The rush of muddy water over river banks in Punjab threatened to destroy vast stretches of crops that make the province Pakistan's breadbasket.

The army used boats and helicopters to move stranded villagers in the area to higher ground.

Water levels were so high in large tracts of Kot Addu and the nearby area of Layyah in the south of the province, that only tree tops and uppermost floors of some buildings were visible.

A military spokesman told reporters that at least 30,000 people have been rescued from flood-hit zones in Kot Addu and nearby areas over the previous 72 hours.

He warned that more flooding was expected as weather forecasts predicted more rains in the next few days.

"People must co-operate with us, and they must leave those areas where floods are going to hit," he said.

This year's monsoon season has prompted the worst flooding in Pakistan in living memory.

The northwestern region of the country was the worst hit, until flood waters flowed downstream to inundate large areas in the south.

Food crisis

The UN is scrambling to provide food and other assistance to millions of people affected in the water-soaked nation, which was already struggling with violence and a poor economy.

AFFECTED AREAS
The worst affected areas are in red; moderately affected areas are in yellow. Evacuations are underway in the stripped area of Southern Sindh province

It has warned of serious food shortages following the loss of farm produce in the floods. The World Food Programme has estimated that 1.8 million people will need to be fed over the next month.

"People [in the flood areas] are literal fighting to get food aid”, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from the capital, Islamabad, said.

Rescue workers have struggled to deliver aid because of washed-out bridges and roads and downed communication lines.

Several foreign countries have stepped in to help, including the United States, which announced on Tuesday that it was sending six large military helicopters from Afghanistan to help with the relief effort.

But many flood victims have complained that aid is not reaching them fast enough or at all.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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