Pakistan floods: relief operation under way as death toll rises

Authorities are still trying to reach cut-off villages in the mountainous north

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The death toll from monsoon flooding in Pakistan has reached 1,061 since June, the National Disaster Management Authority said on Monday, with 28 more people having died in the past 24 hours.

A huge relief operation was under way on Monday and international aid began trickling in.

The final toll could be higher as hundreds of villages in the mountainous north have been cut off by flood-swollen rivers washing away roads and bridges, AFP reported.

Authorities were still trying to reach cut-off villages in the mountainous north, even as the flooded southern Sindh province braced on Sunday for a fresh deluge from swollen rivers in the north.

The Indus River that courses through Pakistan's second-most populous region is fed by dozens of mountain tributaries to the north, but many have burst their banks following record rains and glacier melt.

Torrents of water are expected to reach Sindh in the next few days, adding misery to the millions already affected by the floods.

"Right now, Indus is in high flood," said Aziz Soomro, the supervisor of Sukkur Barrage, a massive colonial-era construction that regulates the river's flow and redirects water to a vast system of canals.

Pakistan needs financial help to deal with the floods, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari told Reuters on Sunday.

He hoped financial institutions such as the IMF would take the economic fallout into account.

"I haven't seen destruction of this scale, I find it very difficult to put into words ... it is overwhelming," Mr Bhutto-Zardari said. He added that many crops that provided much of the population's livelihoods had been wiped out.

"Obviously this will have an effect on the overall economic situation," Mr Bhutto-Zardari said.

The South Asian nation was already in an economic crisis, facing high inflation, a depreciating currency and a current account deficit.

The IMF board will decide this week on whether to release $1.2 billion as part of the seventh and eighth tranches of Pakistan's bailout programme, which it entered in 2019.

"Going forward, I would expect not only the IMF, but the international community and international agencies to truly grasp the level of devastation," Mr Bhutto-Zardari said.

The annual monsoon is essential for irrigating crops and replenishing lakes and dams across the Indian subcontinent, but it also brings destruction.

Officials say this year's monsoon flooding has affected more than 33 million people, one in seven Pakistanis, destroying or badly damaging nearly a million homes.

The NDMA said more than two million acres of cultivated crops had been wiped out, 3,457 kilometres of roads destroyed, and 157 bridges washed away.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 7:34 AM
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