Pak asks UN to mobilise international help for flood victims
Last Updated: Sunday, August 15, 2010, 20:37
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 goods.

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 homeless.

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 rushing in.

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

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