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'Pakistan will need billions' - UN

Pakistan will need billions of dollars to recover from its worst floods in history, further straining a country already dependent on foreign aid to prop up its economy and back its war against Islamist militants, the UN has said.

The warning came as officials said at least 53 people were killed in landslides in northern Pakistan and authorities rushed to evacuate thousands of people threatened by flooding that submerged villages in the south.

The government has struggled to cope with the scale of the disaster, which has killed at least 1,500 people and affected an estimated 15 million prompting the international community to help by donating tens of millions of dollars and providing relief supplies.

But the UN special envoy for the disaster, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said the need for foreign aid would be much greater going forward and could be difficult to procure given the ongoing financial crisis around the world.

The UN is still calculating specific figures, but Ripert said that "the emergency phase will require hundreds of millions of dollars and the recovery and reconstruction part will require billions of dollars".

Much of that money will be needed in the north-west province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the site of the worst damage from floods that first hit two weeks ago after extremely heavy monsoon rains. But as the floodwaters rushed south, they also brought death and destruction to the central and southern provinces of Punjab and Sindh.

The Indus river has overflowed its banks near the city of Sukkur in Sindh, submerging the village of Mor Khan Jatoi with chest-high water and destroying many of its 1,500 mud houses. Many flood victims have complained that they have not received aid quickly enough or at all, further undermining support for a government that was already unpopular.

At least 1.4 million acres of crops were destroyed in Punjab, the breadbasket for the rest of Pakistan, said the UN. Many more crops were devastated in the northwest, where many residents were still trying to recover from intense battles between the Taliban and the army last year. "The flooding has caused massive damage to crops and also to the reserve that people had at their houses," said Amjad Jamal, spokesman for the World Food Program, which has provided food to more than 265,000 people in the northwest.

At least four million people will need food assistance across Pakistan for the next three months, said Mr Jamal. Many foreign countries have stepped in to help the government, including the US, which has pledged millions of dollars and provided six military helicopters to help evacuate victims from the northwest and deliver much needed food and water.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani asked for more help from the international community, saying the government couldn't cope with the disaster on its own. "We will exhaust our resources to rescue, provide food, medicine and shelter, but it is beyond our capacity, so we will appeal to the world," said Mr Gilani during a visit to Sukkur.

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