Thousands Dead or Homeless From Floods in Pakistan

BY Larisa Epatko  August 2, 2010 at 3:20 PM EST


Man surveying damage to his home in Nowshera, Pakistan. Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Unusually severe monsoon rains and flash flooding over the weekend left hundreds of Pakistanis dead and even more homeless in the northwest Monday when dams burst and rivers broke their banks, submerging homes and wiping out roads.

The natural disaster is occurring in the region already the center of intense military conflict with insurgents.

More than 1,500 people have died in the floods, Pakistani officials said, as government and relief organizations struggled to provide aid to affected communities.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 400,000 people and 25 districts in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have been affected in the worst floods to hit the area since 1929.

“Dozens of homes here have been very badly damaged by water racing down from the hills and pouring into homes. People have been clinging to rooftops to try and stay safe,” local resident Inayat Jan told the U.N. agency by phone from a village in the Shangla district.


Pakistanis crossing a broken bridge in Charsada. Photo by A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images

While international rescue organizations have credited the Pakistani government with a more effective response than in previous disasters, there has been a rising volume of complaints from residents in the affected areas.

NPR’s Julie McCarthy reported on the severity of the floods on Monday’s Morning Edition:

Army helicopters reportedly airlifted hundreds of stranded people to safety. Officials are conducting damage assessments, while health care workers expressed concern about the spread of water-borne diseases in communities with limited or no access.

“In a country that is no stranger to natural disasters, this crisis has its own dimension: because so many people have lost literally all that they had, we now need to urgently distribute not only food but also the means to cook it. Items such as cooking sets and dry fuel are required for the flood victims, as is shelter,” said Muhammad Ateeb Siddiqui, director of operations of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, in a statement. “The distribution of relief is severely constrained by damaged infrastructure, and the widespread contamination of water supplies has the potential to create major health problems.”


Man leading buffalo down a flooded street. Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Monsoon rains are expected to continue for the next few days. The devastation comes days after the July 28 airplane crash due to heavy rains near Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board.

On Monday’s NewsHour, we’ll have an Independent Television News report about the floods. Here’s a preview: