Islamabad: Hit by an unprecedented
crisis, Pakistan's top leadership on Sunday appealed to the United
Nations to send a strong message to the world community and
foreign corporate leaders to help the country in providing
relief to millions of people affected by the floods.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf
Raza Gilani raised the issue with visiting UN Secretary-
General Ban Ki-moon, who arrived here today to boost relief
efforts for the 20 million people affected by the deluge.
Zardari called for greater international support and
aid to cope with the "gigantic task of relief and
rehabilitation of the flood victims" and the reconstruction of
damaged property and infrastructure.
He briefed the UN Secretary-General about the damage
to life, property and infrastructure.
He also cautioned that the total damage may be far
greater than the initial estimates.
Zardari said the challenge was too big for any
government to face on its own and Pakistan needed the support
of the international community and donor agencies.
During his meeting with Ban, Prime Minister Gilani
called on the UN to send a "strong message to the
international community, foreign corporate leaders and civil
societies to show solidarity with Pakistan and its flood
victims in this hour of need".
Gilani hoped the UN General Assembly's plenary meeting
on the floods in Pakistan on August 19 would serve as a
catalyst for mobilising much needed international support.
He identified provision of tents, food, water, medical
supplies and water filtration plants as the immediate
requirements of the victims.
Shortly after flying into the Chaklala military
airbase near Islamabad this afternoon, Ban Ki-Moon told
reporters: "I'm here to urge the world community to speed up
their assistance to the Pakistani people".
Ban expressed grief at the loss of lives and massive
destruction of infrastructure and told President Zardari that
the UN would stand by Pakistan in these critical times.
He pledged the UN's continued support and assistance
for humanitarian relief and rehabilitation of flood victims.
Following their meeting, Zardari and Ban Ki-Moon
visited some of the flood-affected areas.
Over 1,700 people have been killed by the floods,
which also washed away roads, bridges and communications
infrastructure in a wide area ranging from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
province in the northwest to southern Sindh province.
The Pakistan government plans to approach
international bodies like the World Bank and Asian Development
Bank for damage and needs assessments that will be used to
seek aid from the international community.
The UN has issued an appeal for 460 million dollars
for an emergency response plan.
However, foreign countries have been slow in providing
aid due to concerns about corruption and the Pakistan
government's poor handling of the crisis.
Several countries have routed their aid through NGOs
and international bodies like the UN and its agencies.
In a bid to address such concerns, Prime Minister
Gilani and main opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif yesterday
agreed to set up an independent commission comprising eminent
people of impeccable integrity to oversee the relief efforts
and to ensure transparency in disbursement of funds and relief
Gilani has said the reconstruction of damaged
infrastructure is "likely to take years" though Pakistan needs
immediate help to repair some important bridges to gain access
to cut off areas where stranded people need immediate relief.
Pakistan wants the world community to provide
helicopters, boats and hovercrafts to help authorities cope
with second and third waves of floods that "might turn out to
be more dangerous for already affected areas," Gilani said.
After causing havoc in the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and
Punjab provinces and in the northern areas, floods have now
ravaged the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. Authorities
say until now the floods have left around four million
Met office officials said that in last 24 hours, flood
waters had breached protective bunds and swept across large
swathes of Balochistan's Jafferabad district and in the
Jacobabad, Umerkot, Larkana and Sukkur areas in Sindh forcing
large scale evacuation of villages.
The floods have also destroyed standing crops and food
storages worth billions of dollars causing a colossal loss to
the national economy.
Waters 1.5 meters deep washed through Derra Allah Yar,
a city of 300,000 people on the border of Sindh and
Baluchistan provinces, said a government official. About
200,000 people had fled the city.
Rescue officials and authorities said that people were
forced to shelter under the open skies as they saw their homes
being washed away.
Hundreds of villages in Jacobabad district in Sindh
were under water and national highways and other major roads
in the province were cut off from the rest of the country.
Floodwaters have inundated several villages and the
affected people are facing huge problems in relocation due to
the unavailability of transportation.
Barrages and dams in the region are all overflowing
and the surging floodwaters have washed away sections of
railway tracks connecting the province.
The district administration of Jaffarabad in
Balochistan province asked the people to evacuate as breaches
in a number of embankments on the Indus sent torrents of water
Police were informing people on loudspeakers about the
flood and asking them to move to safer places.
First Published: Sunday, August 15, 2010, 20:37