Flooding kills hundreds in Pakistan and Afghanistan

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool says whole villages have been washed away

Floods caused by heavy monsoon rains have killed hundreds of people in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Some 325 people died in north-west Pakistan, while across the border in Afghanistan at least 60 were killed.

In Pakistan, several rivers burst their banks, washing away villages, roads and bridges. Some power supplies have been cut to prevent more electrocutions.

Officials say the floods are the worst the region has experienced in more than 80 years, and further rain is forecast.

'No drinking water'

Nearly half a million people have been displaced and hundreds are thought to have drowned, with more killed in landslides or crushed by collapsing buildings.

Analysis

There is gridlock at the main approaches to all roads leading south. Long and growing queues of brightly painted lorries, oil tankers, packed passenger buses and family cars have formed behind the toll booth leading to the main motorway.

But the bridge along this route was badly damaged by the force of the heaviest monsoon flooding since 1929. We have witnessed scenes of devastation and sorrow all along this road.

Whole villages of simple mud-brick houses were washed away by the torrents. One man whose daughter was also carried away by flood waters angrily blocked the motorway for more than an hour, demanding help from the government.

Countless others huddled in silence at the water's edge, sitting on metal cases and bundles of clothes - all the worldly goods they could carry when disaster struck.

The government's disaster team, including military helicopters, have started air-lifting people to higher ground and boats are being deployed. But more rain is forecast and the number of victims continues to grow as water levels rise.

Transport and communication links have been badly affected, even away from the worst-hit areas, says the BBC's Aleem Maqbool, in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

"We have so far gathered the figure of 325 deaths due to flash floods in the north-west and [Pakistan-controlled] Kashmir," Anwer Kazmi, spokesman for Pakistan's largest charity, the Edhi Foundation, told news agency AFP.

At least 300 of the deaths in the last three days have been in north-western Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, according to the charity.

And 25 people are said to have been killed over the same period in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Muzaffarabad residents told the BBC there was no electricity or drinking water in parts of the city.

The meteorological department said 312mm (12in) of rain had fallen over the last 36 hours in the north-west - the largest amount for decades.

KP's provincial information minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, said nearly 400,000 people had been forced to flee.

Livestock perish

The provincial government has declared an emergency.

While the north-west of the country has borne the brunt of the flooding, the south-western province of Balochistan has also been hit hard, and some crops in Punjab province were reportedly ruined.

Victims of flooding in Nowshera on 29 July 2010

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan says there was some respite from heavy rainfall on Friday, but more is forecast across much of Pakistan over the weekend.

Our correspondent says that those hit hardest by the flooding are mostly the rural poor who live in flood-prone areas because they cannot afford safer land.

Pakistani TV channels broadcast footage of vehicles, livestock and people being swept away by powerful torrents.

The army says all available troops have been deployed for relief work.

Those living in low-lying flood-prone areas have been advised to move to higher ground.

Airline officials said the weather was likely to have contributed to the plane crash in Islamabad on Wednesday in which more than 150 people died.

Taliban threat

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says that in Afghanistan's south-eastern Khost province and the eastern province of Laghman the Afghan National Army has been assisting some people, but locals are saying much more help is needed.

However, our correspondent says that providing assistance is hampered by the rural, mountainous terrain, a lack of good roads and the fact the Taliban is still active in the affected areas.

Much of the arable land and crops on which the locals rely have also been destroyed, our correspondent adds.

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