Pakistan floods kills more than 900 people - Asia

Pakistan floods kills more than 900 people

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, August 01, 2010- Politically devastated country with Islamist terrorized for almost daily basis now more damages done by  Floods driven by record-breaking rainfall have killed least 900 people and destroyed thousands of homes over the past week, officials said Saturday, in the latest disaster to test Pakistan’s already strained government.

The crisis comes as the government is struggling to fight an Islamic insurgency and to cope with the aftermath of Wednesday’s plane crash in which 152 people died in the fog- and rain-shrouded Himalayan foothills just outside this capital city. It was the deadliest domestic plane crash in Pakistan’s history.

Officials said the deluge was the worst since 1929 in northwest Pakistan, where water levels in dams continued to rise. And with more rain forecast for all but that part of the country, increasing the likelihood of more flash floods and landslides, government officials issued pleas for international aid.

“We are carrying out this rescue despite limited resources,” Lutfur Rehman, a government official in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, formerly the North-West Frontier Province, told The Associated Press. The area, already ravaged by terrorism that has led to a decline in the economy, needed more helicopters and boats to aid in rescues, he said.

Also hit hard was the Swat Valley, where the government has been working on reconstruction after last year’s military operation there to remove the militants; of the 65 bridges washed away by the rains, 25 were in Swat.

The sheer scale of the floods and the government’s inability to provide immediate relief has led to widespread resentment and bitterness among those affected. Displaced people have contacted local reporters and accused government officials of apathy and incompetence.

“Someone lost his brother, someone lost his sister,” a man from Nowshera, one of the hardest-hit districts, told a local news station. “There is nothing to eat. There is no drinking water. We need food. We need tents. Where is the government?”

The disaster and any perception of government mismanagement could further distance the country’s leaders from their people. Many Pakistanis are already angry with the leadership for allowing the United States to send drone aircraft to kill members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban taking shelter there, and they blame the airstrikes for waves of terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari, who is scheduled to visit Britain this week, has already been criticized by his political opponents, who want him to cancel his trip and focus on relief efforts.

The request for foreign aid comes a year after the country received extensive international support for millions of its citizens who were displaced during the army’s war with the Taliban.

Since then, money from the United States continues to flow in, mostly recently on July 19 when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Islamabad with $500 million in economic aid. But donations from other parts of the world have slowed because of donor fatigue and concerns that Pakistan has failed to comply with economic reforms.

The Friends of Democratic Pakistan, a consortium of donor countries, has disbursed only about $650 million out of $2.2 billion in pledges for 2010.

On Saturday, television stations broadcast grim images of people stranded on rooftops and wading through muddy water as they waited for rescuers or tried to recover valuables from houses.

A man identified only as from Charsadda told the AAJ television network that his whole village had been forced to spend the night by the roadside. “We have lost everything,” he said. “Nothing is left.”

Thirty-thousand Pakistani Army troops, 21 Army helicopters and 150 boats had been deployed to carry out rescue and relief operations, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the army spokesman, said Saturday.

“Nineteen-thousand people have been rescued from the marooned areas,” General Abbas said. “The level of destruction is so widespread, so it is possible that in some areas deaths and damages haven’t been fully reported.”

Amjad Ali, a rescue worker in Nowshera, called conditions “very bad. They have no water, no food.”

In Charsadda, Nabi Gul, who estimated that he was about 70 years old, stood shaking at the site of a rubble heap that just a day earlier had been his house.

“I built this house with my life’s earnings and hard work, and the river has washed it away,” he said in a trembling voice. “Now I wonder, will I be able to rebuild it? And in this time, when there are such great price hikes?”