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Devastating floods head out to sea

Flood waters which have devastated Pakistan for five weeks have headed out to the Arabian Sea after swallowing another two towns, but the challenges of delivering emergency aid to eight million people remained.

The floods have moved down from the mountainous north-west, submerging or affecting almost a fifth of the country at their peak.

Waters have begun to recede in the north and in Punjab, but they have been submerging towns in southern Sindh province, close to the Indus River, over the last 10 days.

The scale of the disaster has raised concerns about the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan, which is already reeling under al Qaida and Taliban violence and massive economic woes.

Government official Hadi Bakhsh said the last two towns in the path of the floods were hit late on Monday.

"The flood waters hit Khahre Jamali and Jati towns last night, and now there is no other village or town in the way of the deluge," he said, adding that people had already fled the towns, parts of which were under 10ft (3m) of water.

"The flood waters are now heading to the Arabian Sea," he said.

Authorities have struggled to feed, house and arrange medical care for the survivors of the floods. Foreign countries and the United Nations were slow to respond to the disaster, in part because it took a long time for its extent to become clear.

Aid is slowly reaching the worst-affected areas by army helicopter, road and boat, but millions have received little or no help. The UN warned that additional funding for emergency food was urgently needed to ensure supplies into next month.

Once all the flood waters recede, the country will be left with a massive relief and reconstruction effort which will cost billions of dollars and take years. An estimated one million homes have been damaged or destroyed, five times as many as were hit by this year's earthquake in Haiti.

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