Scale of destruction due to Pakistan floods nearly ‘incomprehensible’


One-third of Pakistan remains underwater after the deadliest floods the country has ever seen. Nearly 1,400 people have died, 13,000 injured and millions left homeless since unprecedented monsoon rains started in mid-June. Ali Rogin spoke with Somini Sengupta, The New York Times' international climate reporter, about the extent of the destruction.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    1/3 of Pakistan remains underwater more than a week after the deadliest floods that country has ever seen. On a visit to the country this past Friday, the UN secretary general appeal to the international community to provide massive support that includes a $160 million fundraising effort the UN launched two weeks ago. My colleague Ali Rogin spoke with Somini Sengupta, international climate correspondent and anchor of the New York Times climate forward newsletter, about the extent of the destruction.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Somini Sengupta, thank you so much for joining us. The flooding in Pakistan is unlike anything the country has ever seen. Some of its leaders have called it apocalyptic. Pakistan also experienced devastating floods in 2010. But experts say this disaster is far worse. How are these communities dealing with the destruction? And also what are the differences between what we're seeing now and what Pakistan experienced 12 years ago?

  • Somini Sengupta:

    I mean, the scale of human suffering is almost incomprehensible. And this time, of course, it comes right after a really devastating heatwave that hit Pakistan and neighboring India some months ago.

    We know that manmade climate change made that heatwave much, much more likely far more likely than otherwise. And then came just unbelievable rains just downpour sheets of rain. Pakistan this year, received something like almost 200 percent of its average monsoonal rainfall in in the period of three months.

  • Ali Rogin:

    The weather events, as you mentioned, have all just compounded one another. And of course, there's also been a number of non-weather related crises that Pakistan is weathering, including being on the brink of an economic collapse due in part to inflation. There's also a lot of political instability happening right now, how are those factors affecting the country's response to the flooding?

  • Somini Sengupta:

    I mean, certainly there's been political instability and economic crisis and a very, very bad time making Pakistanis all the more vulnerable. So Pakistan's former prime minister was ousted from office in April. He was then charged not long ago under the country's anti-terrorism laws. Pakistan's debt situation has been on the decline for several months. And now the big risk is that it risks a default on its load.

    The Government of Pakistan estimates that damages are in the range of $30 billion. That is just a mind boggling amount of money. There are millions, tens of millions of people in need of humanitarian relief right now. And the scale of rebuilding from these floods is quite immense.

    Pakistan faces another really big risk driven by climate change. And that is its glaciers. And climate change, of course, is making glaciers melt at an accelerating pace, creating a series of lakes, and there's the risk of these lakes bursting. One of the most urgent needs now is to build an early warning system.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Somini, it was interesting earlier this week, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States mentioned that they had put in place early warning systems back in 2010. The last time there were these horrific, catastrophic floods, but that those systems were not enough to really respond to the current disaster. The ambassador also said Friday that he believes rich nations bear some responsibility for the extent of the disaster and that they should pay accordingly. Here's what he said.

    Masood Khan, Pakistan's Ambassador to the US: The international community here has a responsibility, because we are not 100 percent responsible for this calamity. I mean, I would say that if we have contributed less than 1 percent Co2 emissions, then I think the responsibility should be reduced to that fraction, that percentage.

  • Ali Rogin:

    So he's referring to a concept that's become known as loss and damage, and that is rich nations compensating developing nations for the climate damage they're experiencing after those developing nations didn't really contribute to it.

    The next big climate conference Cop 27 is coming up in November in Egypt. Do you think that the Pakistan situation is going to change the conversation around this concept of what is essentially climate reparations?

  • Somini Sengupta:

    I mean, it is now widely acknowledged that the impacts of climate change are disproportionately felt by those who are at least responsible for the problem to begin with. And to the extent that these monsoonal rains are attributed to climate change, to manmade climate change, you will hear no doubt ever louder calls for essentially climate reparation. This is already a flashpoint in the international climate talks. And I expect that the devastating flooding of Pakistan will make those calls even louder.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Somini Sengupta, climate reporter with The New York Times, thank you so much.

  • Somini Sengupta:

    Thank you for having me.

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Scale of destruction due to Pakistan floods nearly ‘incomprehensible’ first appeared on the PBS NewsHour website.

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