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‘Catastrophe of epic scale’: Rescue and relief efforts underway as Pakistan declares flood emergency

Flash floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains across much of Pakistan have killed nearly 1,000 people and injured and displaced thousands more since mid-June.
The new death toll came a day after Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif asked for international help in battling deadly flood damage in the impoverished Islamic nation.
The monsoon season, which began in June, has lashed Pakistan with particularly heavy rains this year, and rescuers have struggled to evacuate thousands of marooned people from flood-hit areas.

The crisis has forced the government to declare a state of emergency.

Officials say this year’s floods are comparable to 2010 — the worst on record — when over 2,000 people died and nearly a fifth of the country was under water.
“I have never seen such huge flooding because of rains in my life,” octogenarian farmer Rahim Bakhsh Brohi said near Sukkur, in southern Sindh province.

Like thousands of others in rural Pakistan, Mr Brohi was seeking shelter beside the national highway, as the elevated roads are among the few dry places in the endless landscapes of water.

Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman, who called the floods “a catastrophe of epic scale”, said the government had declared an emergency and appealed for international assistance.
In response to an appeal for international aid, the United Nations planned a $US160 million ($232 million) flash appeal for donations, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Asim Iftikhar.

He said in his weekly briefing on Friday that the appeal will be launched on 30 August.

From drought to floods

Pakistan is eighth on the Global Climate Risk Index, a list compiled by the environmental NGO Germanwatch of countries deemed most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority, flash floods have killed nearly 1,000 people, including more than 300 children, across Pakistan since mid-June 2022. Source: AAP / EPA

Earlier this year, much of the nation was in the grip of a drought and heatwave, with temperatures hitting 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit) in Jacobabad, Sindh province.

The city is now grappling with floods that have inundated homes and swept away roads and bridges.
In Sukkur, about 75 kilometres (50 miles) away, residents struggled to make their way along muddy streets clogged with flood-borne debris.
“If you had come earlier the water was this high,” 24-year-old student Aqeel Ahmed said, raising his hand to his chest.

Premier Sharif cancelled a planned trip to Britain to oversee the flood response, and ordered the army to throw every resource into relief operations.

“I have seen from the air and the devastation can’t be expressed in words,” he said on state TV after visiting Sukkur.
“The towns, villages and crops are inundated by the water. I don’t think this level of destruction has taken place before.”
A national fundraising appeal has been launched, with Pakistan’s military saying every commissioned officer would donate a month’s salary towards it.

The worst-hit areas are Balochistan and Sindh in the south and west, but almost all of Pakistan has suffered this year.

A boy stands in his partially damaged home caused by flooding after heavy rains, in Jaffarabad, southwestern Baluchistan province, on Friday, 26 August 2022. Source: AAP / AP

Images were circulating on social media Friday of swollen rivers obliterating buildings and bridges built along their banks in the mountainous north.

Junaid Khan, deputy commissioner of Swat district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said that 14 riverside hotels had been swept away, along with two small hyrdopower stations.
In Chaman, the western frontier town neighbouring Afghanistan, travellers had to wade through waist-high water to cross the border after a nearby dam burst, adding to the deluge brought by rain.
Pakistan Railways said nearby Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, had been cut off and train services suspended after a key bridge was damaged by a flash flood.

Most mobile networks and internet services were down in the province, with the country’s telecoms authority calling it “unprecedented”.

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