Pakistan appeals for ‘immense humanitarian response’ after flooding leaves thousands dead

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People wade through floodwaters in Charsadda, Pakistan (Mohammad Sajjad/AP) (AP)
People wade through floodwaters in Charsadda, Pakistan (Mohammad Sajjad/AP) (AP)

Pakistan has appealed for a massive international response to the flooding that has left at least 1,265 people dead.

Federal planning minister Ahsan Iqbal has called for an “immense humanitarian response” for the millions affected by monsoon rains that have caused the devastating floods.

According to initial government estimates, the rain and flooding have caused €10billion (£8.7bn) in damage.

“The scale of devastation is massive and requires an immense humanitarian response for 33 million people. For this I appeal to my fellow Pakistanis, Pakistan expatriates and the international community to help Pakistan in this hour of need,” Mr Iqbal, said at a news conference.

Multiple officials and experts have blamed the unusual monsoon rains and flooding on climate change, including UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” through the deadly crisis.

He will visit Pakistan on September 9 to tour flood-hit areas and meet officials.

The United Nations and Pakistan jointly issued an appeal for $160m in emergency funding to help the millions of people affected by the floods, which have damaged more than 1m homes.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority in its latest report on Saturday counted 57 more deaths from flood-affected areas, bringing the total death toll since monsoon rains began in mid-June to 1,265, including 441 children.

Prime minister Shehbaz Sharif’s earlier appeal for aid received a quick response from the international community, which sent planes loaded with relief goods. A French aircraft carrying relief goods landed in Islamabad on Saturday and was received by national health services minister Abdul Qadir Patel.

Patel said the relief goods sent by France included medicine and large pumps to reduce water levels. He said France had also sent a team of doctors and experts.

Pakistan has established a National Flood Response and Coordination Centre to distribute the aid. Iqbal is supervising the army-led centre.

The minister said rains this monsoon season have lashed most areas of Balochistan and Sindh provinces as well as parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces. The Gilgit-Baltistan territory was also affected. The torrential rains and subsequent flash floods caused massive damage to infrastructure, roads, electricity and communications networks.

Iqbal said the government was working to get the country back to normal as soon as possible but that the Pakistani government could not do it alone.

Maj Gen Zafar Iqbal said in the news conference that over the last four days, 29 planes loaded with relief goods arrived in Pakistan from Turkey, the UAE, China, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Turkmenistan and other countries.

Military spokesperson Maj Gen Iftikhar Babar said rescuers supported by the military were continuing rescue and relief operations. He said army aviation, air force and navy troops were using boats and helicopters to evacuate people from remote regions and to deliver aid.

Babar said the army had established 147 relief camps sheltering and feeding more than 50,000 displaced people while 250 medical camps have provided help to 83,000 people so far.

Health officials have expressed concern about the spread of water-borne diseases among homeless people living in relief camps and in tents alongside roads.

Lt Gen Akhtar Nawaz, head of the disaster management authority, said areas of the country that had expected to receive 15% to 20% additional rains this year actually received in excess of 400% more. Collectively, the country has seen 190% more rain this monsoon season.

The US military’s Central Command has said it will send an assessment team to Islamabad to see what support it can provide. The United States announced $30m worth of aid for the flood victims earlier this week.

Two members of the US Congress, Sheila Jackson and Tom Suzy, were expected to arrive in Pakistan on Sunday to visit the flood-affected areas and meet officials.

The UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal to help those affected by the flooding has raised £13.5m after launching on Thursday.