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Pakistan’s Floods Leave Millions Displaced

August 2, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next tonight: the devastating flood in Pakistan, some in areas where the military has been fighting insurgents. More than 1,000 people have died, up to two million displaced.

We have a report narrated by Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN MILLER: Villages and villagers reportedly washed away by walls of water, entire districts submerged, cropland inundated, drinking water contaminated, communications down, bridges destroyed, roads gone, schools gone, homes gone, thousands of them.

MAJ. GEN. ASHFAQ NADEEM, Pakistan Army: This was known as the flood of the centuries, and which has virtually devastated most of the structures, especially the areas close to the rivers.

JONATHAN MILLER: Many areas in remoter parts still inaccessible, with news still filtering in, a sense that this is not the full story yet, these among the very poorest people in Pakistan, three million of them already uprooted by war with Taliban insurgents along the Afghan border, and now this.

MAN (through translator): We are cleaning our remaining wheat, which is almost spoiled. We have nothing. We are just depending on the mercy of God, nothing left except this wet wheat.

JONATHAN MILLER: The Pakistan-armed forces now using a fleet of 40 military helicopters to deliver aid and rations. The U.N. World Food Program says the floodwaters have damaged their grain warehouse stocks for their relief operations in Pakistan and next-door Afghanistan.

The needs are absolutely huge. Snakes are a big problem after floods like these, waterborne diseases a big concern. Where roads aren’t washed away, a massive exodus, and the national government too deluged by undiluted rage.

MAN (through translator): This is our fifth day. Nobody has come from the government. We’re staying on the mountain. We lost everything. It’s each man for himself, and we have no help.

JONATHAN MILLER: Islamist parties and charitable wings of proscribed jihadi groups are moving in to fill the vacuum. One of these, the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, has sent off 13 rescue teams and is providing food, medicine and water.

It’s all a bit rich in a region in which Taliban-linked insurgent groups have already caused so much suffering. In May last year, a million people fled in terror from the Swat Valley, as the Islamists took on the army. Today, the Taliban in Pakistan told us they temporarily suspended attacks in flood-hit areas to give people a chance to seek forgiveness for opposing them.

This is the U.N.’s latest map of the worst affected areas, where floodwater levels are the highest. Swat district and the region south of Peshawar are the most severely flooded. It’s there that loss of life and damage have been greatest, in Kashmir, water levels up by five to seven meters in the Neelum and Jhelum Rivers. Huge landslides blocked roads and many deaths reported.

The monsoon waters follow the floodplain of the Indus River south through the Punjab into Balochistan towards Sindh. This is the British Met Office five-day forecast up to Friday night, more intense monsoon rain to come, pockets of more than 200 millimeters, the heaviest rains shifting ever southwards, as will be the floodwaters down the Indus.

In some parts, they warn, localized thunderstorms could be even more intense than forecast. Downriver, local governments say the flood defenses should be able to take it, but they won’t have seen anything like this for decades.