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More Rain Forecast for Flood-Ravaged Pakistan

August 5, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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The numbers of those affected by the floods in Pakistan have climbed to more than 4 million. The forecast is calling for more monsoon rains for the next three days. Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports from Punjab Province in the eastern part of the country.
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RAY SUAREZ: There was no letup to the widespread flooding in Pakistan today. More than four million people have been affected, and heavy monsoon rains are in the forecast for the next three days.

Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News visited one area of Punjab Province in the eastern part of the country, where entire villages have been swallowed by the rising floodwaters.

JONATHAN MILLER: It’s a horrendous confluence of trouble, and Pakistan is struggling. More torrential monsoon rain is forecast, hampering evacuation and relief work, as the floodwaters continue to surge south.

The Pakistan Met Office today expressing alarm, as it has predicted a weekend deluge in the south, the U.N., too, warning that the catastrophe threatens to worsen, with ever-larger tracts of land submerged. There are worries that a dam could burst. Half-a-million people are urgently being moved out of harm’s way along the lower Indus River.

MAJOR NOORUL AMEEN, Pakistan Armed Forces (through translator): The first of our tasks is to use boats to rescue those who are trapped in floodwaters and take them to relief camps, and then get to those who are in areas out of reach.

JONATHAN MILLER: This is Punjab, Pakistan’s fertile rice bowl, where there this year’s rice crop is destroyed. What happened here could be a taste of things to come in southern Sindh, downriver.

We have learned tonight that the army has now deployed 2,000 troops to wage war against the water. Villagers attempt to plug the holes in vain, victims of meteorological depression. The rain is still lashing down in places and, from above, a view of the orchard oceans of Punjab.

IKHLAQ TARAR, relief commissioner, Punjab Province: Twelve hundred and sixty-one villages have been affected. Around 1.5 million population has been rendered homeless.

JONATHAN MILLER: But government officials do not have a grip on this crisis, and Pakistan’s Islamist humanitarian groups have capitalized on this, in the worse-hit areas, amongst the poorest of the poor.

MAN (through translator): Have you seen any government officials? There’s no one from the government here. The only ones providing help are our Muslim brothers. And we’re not here for political reasons. We’re simply here to provide help.

MAN (through translator): We would like the government to help us and give us food, but we are grateful to this group for providing aid. And, if one day, they need our help, we will be ready to sacrifice ourselves for them.

JONATHAN MILLER: On the far bank of the Indus River, the town of Kalabagh sits in a hostile environment. The river has partially destroyed it, while, in the mountains behind, jihadi groups, among them Lashkar-e-Taiba, wage war against a government rapidly losing the faith of its people.

Has there been any outside help?

MAN: No, no help.

JONATHAN MILLER: The residents of Kalabagh are dealing with the aftermath themselves. For them, the worst is over.

The Indus River is in full flood here still, its waters destroying everything along its banks as it moves south. Up here in Punjab, thousands of villagers have been affected, 25,000 homes destroyed. And as the river breaches its defensive banks, rice lands have been inundated, destroying crops. And, in Punjab, even as the waters recede, they rise and surge further south, posing an ever-greater risk to the cities of Hyderabad and Karachi.

Tonight, evacuations are under way in Sindh, and the southern cities are bracing themselves for the worst.

RAY SUAREZ: The World Food Program plans on reaching some 250,000 people this week. The U.N. group said as many as 1.8 million people in one province alone are in need of food assistance.