Pakistan has issued new flood warnings as the country battles to cope with the worst floods in living memory, which have affected 3.
2 million people and killed up to 1500.
A week into the crisis and as more monsoon rains lashed the country, anger is reaching boiling point among impoverished survivors complaining they have been abandoned by the government after their livelihoods had been swept away.
Bedraggled victims walked behind donkey carts stacked with luggage or crammed into cars, trying to reach safer ground as others sheltered in mosques from downpours that threaten to deepen the misery of hundreds of thousands.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was to chair an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday to estimate the damages, expected to run into billions of rupees (millions of dollars) and expedite the relief work.
“This is a serious humanitarian disaster,” the UN humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, told AFP, saying discussions were under way to determine whether the crisis warranted a fresh appeal for donor aid.
Nadeem Ahmad, chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, estimated roughly three million people were affected – 1.5 million in the north-west and the same number in central province Punjab.
Of about 3.2 million people affected, 1.4 million were children, said Marco Jimenez Rodriguez, a spokesman for UNICEF.
“People immediately need food, water, shelter, health facilities, medicines and sanitation,” UN World Food Programme spokesman Amjad Jamal told AFP.
In one of the worst affected villages, Majuky Faqirabad, most of the homes had been destroyed, an AFP reporter said.
The rest lay in disarray with belongings littered under open skies. Villagers said 10 bodies had been recovered but at least 100 people were still missing.
The military, Pakistan’s most powerful institution, said more than 54,000 people had been rescued from flood-hit areas and moved to safer places, with 40 helicopters and 450 army boats mobilised as part of the rescue effort.
Anger was growing among survivors as President Asif Ali Zardari pressed on with a visit to Europe.
“Zardari should visit the flood-hit areas and take steps for the welfare of the stranded people instead of taking joy rides to France and the UK,” said villager Sher Khan, 40, in Majuky Faqirabad.
The president made a trip to his family’s stately home in the French countryside on Tuesday before travelling on to London to begin a five-day visit.
Zardari is due to hold talks with Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday, but some British lawmakers of Pakistani origin pulled out of a planned lunch with the president on Thursday, saying he should be back home.
A crowd of protesters gave Zardari an angry reception as he arrived at his central London hotel, saying the trip was a waste of money that could be better spent on flood relief.
Authorities in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa issued an alert to people living around Warsak Dam, one of the country’s biggest dams and lying outside Peshawar, as water levels rose.
Pakistan’s meteorological service forecast widespread rains in the southern province of Sindh, Punjab in the centre, Pakistani-held Kashmir, the north-west and south-western Baluchistan over the next three days.
Flash flooding was expected in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Baluchistan, it warned, with heavy thunderstorms in Islamabad.
The local government in Khyber Pakhtunkwa has said up to 1500 people have died, although there are fears the toll could rise further.
Record rain last week triggered floods and landslides that obliterated entire villages and ruined farmland in one of the country’s most impoverished and volatile regions, already hard hit by Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked violence.
The United Nations said about 980,000 people had lost their homes or been temporarily displaced, and the figure was likely to rise above a million.
The United States is sending American pilots with six helicopters to help with the relief effort in areas inaccessible by road, the Pentagon said.