Floods crisis deepens as rain falls
More rain has soaked flood-ravaged Pakistan and even heavier downpours are forecast for coming days, deepening a crisis in which hard-line Islamists have rushed to fill gaps in the government's patchy response.
Pakistani officials estimate as many as 13 million people throughout the South Asian nation have been affected by the rising waters. About 1,500 people have died, most of them in the north-west, the hardest-hit region.
Mass evacuations are under way in the southern province of Sindh after the Indus River rose there.
The intense flooding that began about two weeks ago has washed away roads, bridges and many communications lines, hampering rescue efforts. Incessant monsoon rains have grounded many helicopters trying to rescue people and ferry aid, including six helicopters manned by US troops on loan from Afghanistan.
The national government's response has appeared chaotic at times, and confidence in its ability to cope has been shaken by the decision of President Asif Ali Zardari to visit France and England amid the crisis.
Floodwaters receded somewhat on Friday in the north-west, but downpours in the evening and on Saturday again swelled rivers and streams.
Pakistani meteorologist Farooq Dar said heavy rains in Afghanistan were expected to make things even worse over the next 36 hours as the bloated Kabul River surged into Pakistan's north-west. That will likely mean more woes for Punjab and Sindh provinces as well, as new river torrents flow east and south.
Authorities have given varying tolls for the number of people among Pakistan's 175 million impacted by the floods.
The United Nations said four million people had been affected, including 1.5 million severely, meaning their homes had been damaged or destroyed. But Pakistani officials have put the figure much higher.
In the north-west and Punjab, floods have displaced 12 million people, said Amal Masud, an official with the National Disaster Management Authority. In Sindh province, about one million people have been evacuated or are being helped out of their homes, said Jam Saifullah, the provincial irrigation minister.