Pakistan PM Sharif pledges compensation to homeless as flood death toll mounts

Climate change blamed for the worst deluge in recent memory

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Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Wednesday promised the people left homeless by the nation's worst floods they will be given funds to rebuild and return to their lives.

“We will do our best to financially help you," Mr Sharif told families living in tents and makeshift homes in the town of Suhbatpur in Baluchistan, AP reported. “Those who lost homes and crops will get compensation from the government.”

He told school children, who were studying in a tent with help from the UNICEF in Suhbatpur they will get a new school in the next two months.

Authorities scrambled to deliver aid on Tuesday as the death toll from the floods mounted, with no respite in sight from the unusually heavy monsoon rains.

The rains started early this year — in mid-June — and swept away entire villages, bridges and roads, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

At one point, a third of the country’s territory was inundated.

Authorities said the overall death toll reached 1,481 on Tuesday, with 54 more people dying as a result of flooding in the past 24 hours.

The majority of those deaths were in the hard-hit province of Sindh.

Experts say that climate change is in large part to blame for the deluge, the worst in recent memory.

The rains, which abated late last month only to restart this week, are predicted to continue lashing much of the country in the coming weeks, said Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s minister for climate change.

She expressed fears the downpours would hamper rescue and relief operations in flood-hit areas, where swirling deluges from overflowing rivers, fast melting glaciers and floods have already affected 33 million people.

So far, rescuers have moved 179,281 people from affected areas.

It will take up to six months to drain water in flood-hit areas, officials say.

Waterborne diseases are affecting thousands of people in flooded areas — and now there are fears of mosquito-borne dengue fever. Mosquitos have spread because of stagnant waters left after the flooding.

“With 584,246 people in camps throughout the country, [the] health crisis could wreak havoc,” Ms Rehman said.

The southern port city of Karachi has registered an outbreak of dengue fever, she said.

Karachi is also the capital of Sindh province, one of the regions worst affected by the floods.

The floods have also destroyed crops, including 70 per cent of the onion harvest, along with rice and corn, Ms Rehman said.

Much of the country’s agriculture belt is under water and Pakistan is in talks with several countries to import wheat.

Iran has already dispatched fresh vegetables to Pakistan.

In Sindh, officials said more downpours could delay the return of about 600,000 people from camps to their villages, towns and other urban areas. Strong winds the previous day blew away several relief camps in remote areas in Sindh.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s government has started distributing money to those who lost homes in the flooding to help them restart their lives.

Mr Sharif told his Cabinet on Tuesday that despite the fact that Pakistan emits less than 1 per cent of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, it faces widespread damages from climate-induced floods, disproportionately more than other nations.

The floods have damaged 1.7 million homes, according to the National Disaster Management Agency. Thousands of pregnant women are living in tents and makeshift homes.

Initially, Pakistan estimated that the floods caused $10 billion in damages, but authorities now say the damages are far greater. The devastation has forced the United Nations to urge the international community to send more help.

So far, UN agencies and various countries, including the US, have sent about 90 planeloads of aid.

Last week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres travelled to flooded areas in south and south-west Pakistan to see first-hand the extent of the disaster.

Updated: September 14, 2022, 11:23 AM
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