Desperation as Pakistan flood misery grows

Villagers flee to safety in Baseera, Punjab. 11 Aug 2010 The overflowing Indus river is wreaking havoc in Punjab and Sindh provinces

Stricken communities caught in Pakistan's devastating floods are growing increasingly desperate, local officials say.

Floodwater triggered by heavy monsoon rains is surging south along the Indus River, forcing people from their homes.

Mohsin Leghari, a member of the Punjab regional assembly, told the BBC that many had lost everything.

The UN has launched an appeal for $459m (£290m) to help the estimated 14 million people affected by the floods.

At least 1,600 people have died in the floods and many more are missing.

Mr Leghari, who lives near the Indus River in Punjab, said people were without shelter - at the mercy of the rain or the sun.

"If it rains that brings misery and if it is sunny, then the sun brings misery," he told the BBC's World Today programme.

Start Quote

When you go in with 500 ration packages and there are 5,000 people out there who are expecting it, there is chaos”

End Quote Mohsin Leghari Member of Punjab regional assembly

"With all the water, the humidity level goes up so much that it becomes difficult to breathe. Their crops have gone, their livestock has gone, the infrastructure, the roads are gone.

Aid 'too slow'

"Right now our land link with the rest of the country is gone. Right now the shortage of essential commodities is beginning to show."

He said items in short supply included cooking oil, flour and sugar.

"Everything seems to be coming to a very critical situation right now," he added.

Mr Leghari said government relief had been arriving very slowly.

"We are a poor country and our resources are very limited," he said. "We are not equipped to handle this kind of a disaster."

He said those delivering aid were being confronted by desperate people.

"When you go in with 500 ration packages and there are 5,000 people out there who are expecting it, there is chaos People attack you because they are desperate," he said.

"Their children are starving, their elderly mothers are starving. So they have to be desperate. I don't blame them."

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said money raised by the appeal would be for immediate relief over the next three months.

BBC chart

Speaking in New York, he said the disaster was "one of the most challenging that any country has faced in recent years".

Concern has been growing that militants in the restive north-west are regrouping as Pakistani troops focus on relief work.

Correspondents say insurgents have kept up attacks during the two-week flooding crisis.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Pakistani Taliban described the floods as God's punishment to Pakistanis for accepting secular leaders. They urged Pakistanis to boycott foreign aid.

However, Pakistan's army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said troops could manage relief work and security operations concurrently.

New flood alerts

Pakistan's meteorological service warned of floods in Hyderabad district, which could spread devastation further south in Sindh province.

They also issued a "significant" flood forecast for Kalabagh and Chashma in Punjab.

But in a glimmer of hope for relief teams, forecasters said the monsoon system over the Arabian Sea is weakening and torrential rains should ease over the next three days.

Meanwhile, international donors have pledged more aid for Pakistan.

The US, which has already committed $55m to relief efforts, announced it was contributing another $16.2m to the UN refugee agency and the International Red Cross for emergency help for flood victims.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates said a US aircraft carrier with about 19 helicopters was already off the coast of Karachi.

The UK said on Tuesday that four more plane loads of relief supplies will be sent to Pakistan.

The World Food Programme has said it is trying to get help to up to six million survivors at a cost of $150m.

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