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Pakistan flooding displaces 1 million

Pakistanis displaced by flooding line up for a hot meal from an Islamic charity Friday at a temporary camp operated by the Pakistan army in Sukkar, southern Pakistan.

Associated Press

Pakistanis displaced by flooding line up for a hot meal from an Islamic charity Friday at a temporary camp operated by the Pakistan army in Sukkar, southern Pakistan.

SUKKUR, Pakistan — Flooding that has reached the Indus River delta displaced at least 1 million southern Pakistan residents in recent days, U.N. officials said Friday, a significant escalation of what is already the country's worst natural disaster in its history.

Farther upstream in central and northern Pakistan, flooding has begun to recede a month after record monsoon rains swept away roads, bridges and other infrastructure and left millions of people homeless. The death toll stands at 1,600.

In southern Sindh province, however, the floods continue to wreak havoc as they reach cities near the Indus delta. U.N. officials said the floods have forced the evacuation of 1 million people in the last two days, mostly from the Qambar-Shadadkot and Thatta regions in the southern end of the province. In terms of surface area affected by flooding, Sindh is now the hardest-hit of Pakistan's provinces.

"An already colossal disaster is getting worse, and requiring an even more colossal response," said U.N. spokesman Maurizio Giuliano. "The magnitude of this crisis is reaching levels that are even beyond our initial fears."

Officials with the world body say the speed with which the crisis is spreading is outpacing the international community's efforts to reach legions of flood victims who lack access to food, clean drinking water, shelter and health care. U.N. workers are providing drinking water to 2.5 million people but have yet to reach the estimated 3.5 million others still in need.

Relief workers are especially concerned about the risk to children, many of whom were already in poor health before the floods. U.N. officials estimate that at least 70,000 children under the age of 5 and living in flood-affected areas suffered from acute malnutrition before the crisis. Up to 20 percent of children in flooded regions are suffering from diarrhea-related disorders and at high risk of dehydration and malnutrition.

People in the Indus delta region were evacuated this week after the river, bloated to 40 times its normal volume, breached several embankments in the Thatta area.

"People had been warned, but they escaped only after the river broke its banks and the water started to inundate their villages," said Andro Shilakadze, head of the U.N. Children's Fund branch in Karachi, the Sindh capital. "People had to leave in a rush, many of them during the night, taking almost nothing with them. Many are still stranded and are now being rescued by (Pakistani) authorities."

Relief from

U.S. lagging

Americans are giving a paltry amount for relief efforts in flood-stricken Pakistan compared to other overseas disasters. They were more than 40 times more generous for the Haiti earthquake. Reasons include the slow-motion nature of the calamity, relatively scant TV coverage, and — unmistakably — the fact that the strategic Muslim ally is viewed warily by many Americans. InterAction, an umbrella group for U.S. relief agencies active abroad, says its affiliates have raised about $12 million so far for Pakistan, compared to more than $500 million at the same stage of the Haiti earthquake relief effort earlier this year. The American Red Cross reports a similar trend.

Taliban threat: The threats against aid workers helping flood victims in Pakistan must be taken seriously and show that insurgents have no moral boundaries, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday. "I share the concern that was stated yesterday by the State Department," Adm. Mike Mullen, U.S. military chief, told reporters in Cleveland. Mullen said he has seen no evidence of attacks against aid workers in Pakistan or U.S. military forces helping the relief effort.

Associated Press

Pakistan flooding displaces 1 million 08/27/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 27, 2010 11:16pm]
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