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Pakistan flooding aid effort gathers pace

1,100 death toll set to rise as extent of crisis emerges

Aid efforts to help the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by flooding in Pakistan were expected to gather pace today as agencies warned of an impending catastrophe.

Over 1,100 were confirmed dead after flood waters ravaged huge swathes of the north west corner of the country.

The death toll in the poverty-stricken area is expected to soar in the coming days following the worst flooding in nearly 40 years.

Last night Oxfam launched an emergency humanitarian aid effort as more monsoon rains were forecast to bring further chaos to the area in the coming days.

Save the Children are already operating in the region and are distributing plastic sheeting, household supplies and hygiene kits.

The UN estimated more than one million people were affected by the disaster, with 27,000 still reportedly trapped by the water.

Jane Cocking, Oxfam's humanitarian director, said: “This is a flood on a scale we have not seen in decades in Pakistan and requires an aid effort of equal measure.

“People in the flood's wake were already desperately poor and what little possessions they had have been washed away.

“The extent of this crisis is only slowly emerging.

“The more villages that are reached the grimmer the picture becomes.

“There is a desperate need for temporary shelter, clean drinking water and toilets to avert a public health catastrophe. People also need medical care and basic food items.

“We are looking at a sizeable aid package that will require a great deal of public support.”

The flooding caused by record-breaking rainfalls caused massive destruction in the past week, especially in the north-west province of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa.

As floodwaters began to recede slightly yesterday the full scale of the devastation emerged.

Latifur Rehman, spokesman for the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, explained: “Aerial monitoring is being conducted, and it has shown that whole villages have washed away, animals have drowned and grain stores have washed away. The destruction is massive.”

The 1,100 death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers were unable to access certain areas, said Adnan Khan, a disaster management official.

Almost 700 people drowned in the Peshawar valley, which includes the districts of Nowshera and Charsada, and 115 others are still missing, Mr Khan said.

The districts of Swat and Shangla were also hit hard and suffered more than 400 deaths, said Mujahid Khan, the head of rescue services for the Edhi Foundation, a private charity.

In the Nowshera area, men, women and children were reduced to scrambling on to roofs as they waited to be rescued.

“There are very bad conditions,” said Amjad Ali, a rescue worker in the area. “They have no water, no food.”

Rescuers were using army helicopters, heavy trucks and boats to try reaching flood-hit areas, the UN said.

It reported that thousands of homes and roads were destroyed, and at least 45 bridges across the north-west were damaged.

A spokeswoman for the Department for International Development (DFID) said: “We are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to help.”

She said that the UN and the Government of Pakistan were conducting a needs assessment. This will show where emergency relief is most urgently needed.

DFID will then base its response on the results of this assessment.

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