Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ASIA: PAKISTAN: SEVERE FLOODING: 209 DEAD- 5 MILLION DISPLACED

ASIA NEWS REPORT: Experts predict more rain and further devastation. The emergency operations hampered by weather conditions. In camps lacking food and medicine, fears of epidemics for sanitation. China announces aid for 4.7 million dollars. Charges against the Pakistani government, already criticised by international organizations for the 2010 disasters.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The torrential rains that have struck southern Pakistan in recent days, causing at least 209 dead so far and 5.3 million displaced in the province of Sindh, show no signs of easing up. Experts fear further devastation and other victims, while rescue operations and emergency efforts are slow due to the difficult weather conditions and flooded lands. In camps for displaced people food, clean water and medicine to help the sick are lacking, while fears over the spread of epidemics linked to poor hygiene increase.

Thousands are now forced to live in makeshift shelters or sleep outdoors, while the authorities seem incapable of adequately responding to the emergency. Yesterday the United Nations began to provide food and basic necessities to about half of the 5.3 million flood victims. Amjad Jamal, a spokesman for the World Food Programme(WFP) says that the UN agency has provided - among other things - food packages to over 600 families of Badin, Sindh, one of the districts hardest hit by torrential rains. The floods have invested 23 districts of Pakistan's southern province and destroyed crops on 1.7 million acres of land. To date, 2,490 reception centers have been set up in different areas, to accommodate the displaced. The local civil protection - the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) - confirms the "massive" size of the disaster which it defines as "unique" by nature and scope, with more than 1 meter of precipitation falling over the last four weeks.

The Chinese embassy in Pakistan has promised support for 4.7 million dollars to deal with the emergency and help the victims in Sindh. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has confirmed that the volume of water that has fallen is more than two and a half times the seasonal average, and it has flooded more than 4.1 million acres of land. 700 thousand houses are damaged, at least 150 thousand people who have sought refuge in emergency centers are in need of immediate assistance. Among the displaced people there are 2.5 million children.

The disaster comes only a few weeks after aid agency Oxfam charged the Pakistani government, with being unable - or unwilling - to implement concrete measures to prevent floods or natural disasters, despite the disastrous floods of 2010 that affected 21 million people and caused damage amounting to 10 billion dollars. And the forecast does not lead to optimism: Arif Mehmood, from the weather center, announces "new and additional flooding problems due to the rains" in the coming days.

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