Pakistan rushes relief to flooded areas

Troops and rescue workers are distributing relief supplies to survivors of a dam collapse, as the toll from floods and a week of torrential rain and avalanches in Pakistan approached 300.

    Villagers look at their flooded neighbourhood in Aghore

    Officials on Sunday said 1000 to 1500 people were still missing in coastal villages in the worst-hit southwestern province of Baluchistan, while casualties continued to rise in Pakistan's northwestern frontier and the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

    About 3000 troops and 1000 paramilitary forces with helicopters, coast guard boats and C-130 transport planes ferried food, medicine and tents to Pasni and nearby villages, close to where the 150m-long Shakidor Dam burst on Thursday, sweeping people into the Arabian Sea and destroying telephone lines, roads and bridges.

    The Pakistan Red Crescent was dispatching tents, blankets, tarpaulins and 40 tons of food.

    Bodies recovered

    Army, navy and coast guards - sometimes using fishing nets - have retrieved 135 bodies from floodwaters in the districts of Pasni, Turbat and Awaran. In all, about 200 people are confirmed to have died in flooding in Baluchistan, Pakistan's biggest and poorest province.

    On Saturday, President General Pervez Musharraf visited Pasni, where relief operations have been hampered by severe damage caused to a 40km coastal highway.

    Villages near the town of Uthal, about 100km from Pasni, were also inundated, washing away crops and damaging homes.

    Weeping at the roadside, Alah Bakhsh, 45, said his 18-year-old son was among dozens stranded in their homes by the floodwaters. "I don't know what has happened to them," he said.

    Baluchistan authorities said late on Saturday that 1000 to 1500 people were unaccounted for in the flood-hit areas, up from the earlier figure of 500.

    Nearly 18,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the region - about 1900km southwest of the capital, Islamabad, said Muhammad Ilyas at the provincial Crisis Control and Management Cell.

    Dams breached

    Two other small dams were breached by rain water in two other districts near Pasni on Saturday, inundating several villages, but no casualties were reported.

    Elsewhere in Pakistan, week-long rains - the heaviest in years - and avalanches in mountainous areas have claimed scores of lives.

    Kashmiris survey a shattered
    street after an avalanche

    In Pakistan-held Kashmir, the toll rose by eight to 46, as authorities reported two more deadly incidents.

    Rains eased on Sunday, but three more days of rain are forecast in parts of Baluchistan and northern and northwestern Pakistan, starting on Monday or early on Tuesday, said Imran Siddiqi at the state-run meteorological department in Islamabad.

    Snow in mountainous northern regions was also likely, but Baluchistan's coastal area was expected to be spared more rain, he said.

    The United Nations said it had set up an emergency relief assessment mission to help authorities cope with the disaster.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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