Meanwhile, from the capital Islamabad, Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, said: "I have spoken to several people, they ... are saying the army seems to be doing a very good job with limited resources.

"But the government seems to be putting the wrong foot forward every time it tries to take a step."

"The government is simply floundering, that is how many people are describing it.

"This is a fledgling democracy ... [and] the institutions are not geared up to deal with this kind of crisis, however, this is seen as [an] excuse by many people."

US helicopters

As fresh rains fell on Thursday, bloated rivers gushed southward towards Sindh, where hundreds of thousands of the most impoverished Pakistanis live along the water because of fertile soil.

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

Authorities are using around 30 boats to help the evacuation of 500,000 people living along the river banks and have set up 400 relief camps, Sauleh Farooqi, a disaster-response official in the province, said.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Punjab province, loaded with their belongings and livestock, and fears are growing of a food crisis as crops and farmland are washed away by the floodwaters.

As the humanitarian disaster pushed into a second week, a number of foreign governments and aid agencies have stepped into help the beleaguered government.

US army helicopters flew their first relief missions in Pakistan's flood-ravaged northwest on Thursday, airlifting hundreds of stranded people to safety from a devastated tourist town and distributing emergency aid.

Six helicopters landed in the resort town of Kalam in the Swat Valley, flying hundreds of people, many of them on holiday there, to safer areas lower down.

A US embassy spokesman said 800 people had been evacuated and relief goods distributed.

"Between them four Chinook and two Blackhawk helicopters flew up to 18 sorties today and dropped 66,000 pounds of relief supplies and evacuated more than 800 people from Kalam," said Richard Snelsire, an embassy spokesman.

The helicopters came over from Afghanistan, where nearly 150,000 US-led Nato troops are fighting Taliban forces.

International aid

Washington also pledged an additional $25m of aid to Pakistan on Thursday, having promised $10m as initial assistance soon after the floods began.

The money will be provided to international organisations and established Pakistani aid groups to provide food, health care and shelter for those displaced by the floods, the US embassy said in a statement.

The British government has pledged $8m in aid, while Australia pledged $4.4m and China $1.5m.

AFFECTED AREAS

Red: worst affected areas
Yellow:
moderately affected areas
Striped: Evacuations underway

Other countries including Indonesia, South Korea and Canada have also promised help.

In the UK, charities launched a radio and television appeal on Thursday to raise funds for those affected by the floods.

The appeal is being organised by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which includes 13 UK humanitarian agencies such as Action Aid, Oxfam, Christian Aid and the British Red Cross.

Brendan Gormley, the DEC's chief executive, said: "These floods have destroyed the lives of thousands of families, washing away entire villages and leaving millions of survivors suffering with little food or shelter.

"With more heavy rain predicted, it is clear the situation is at tipping point and the speed of our response is vital."

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has dispatched special envoy Jean-Maurice Ripert to help mobilise international support for the effort.

Ripert, a former French ambassador to the UN, arrived in Pakistan on Thursday and will visit affected areas in the northwest and meet government officials.