Pakistan extends flood relief phase to six months

Floods ravage more southern towns in the worst disaster to hit Pakistan.

Karachi: Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday said relief efforts would be extended to six months as floods ravage more southern towns in the worst disaster to hit the country.

A month after monsoons triggered catastrophic flooding throughout the country, submerging an area the size of England, eight million remain dependent on handouts for their survival, which they say are too slow coming.

"In the current circumstances and urgent needs, the relief phase which was earlier planned to end on October 30, now will continue for six months," Gilani told the lower house of the federal Parliament.

"Early recovery phase shall be completed by December 30, while damage and need assessment by World Bank and Asian Development Bank would be completed by September 30," he added.

Authorities in the southern province of Sindh were busy evacuating more people to safety in several flooded towns around 350 kilometres (215 miles) north of Karachi as officials said thousands more tents were urgently needed.

"Most parts of Khairpur Nathan Shah town and Mehar town and several surrounding villages have been flooded," Iqbal Memon, district chief of Dadu, said.

"Most of the people have been evacuated from these towns and hundreds of those remaining were being helped by the Pakistan Navy and local administration," he said.

Memon said the flooding in Dadu district was caused by a breach in the Khudawa canal on Friday.

Some 800 people in Baid village were stranded and calling for urgent evacuation.

"We are sheltered on higher ground in the village, there are about 800 people who are stranded here with their belongings and cattle surrounded by rising water," villager Bashir Gadahi said by telephone.

"This cell phone is the only communication means left and its battery won`t last long. We are calling the authorities, but so far no rescue is in sight," Gadahi said.

"We have no fodder to feed our cattle and our rice and chilli crops have been destroyed by the flood," he said.

People were also fleeing the flooded town of Jati but faced a shortage of transport, local television reports said.

Town official Hadi Bakhsh Kalhoro said about 100 people were stranded there and a rescue effort was underway to evacuate them to safety.

Sindh relief commissioner Ghulam Ali Pasha said there was a shortage of tents, with a further 200,000 people displaced from Khairpur Nathan Shah alone.

"The flood has affected some eight million people in Sindh and some 2.8 million people were displaced," Pasha said.

"Only 1.2 million people are in camps, while the rest have no shelter as we are facing an acute shortage of tents and some 50,000 tents are immediately needed," he said.

He said the floods had destroyed some 4,600 schools.

The government`s official death toll from the floods has reached 1,760 but disaster officials have warned that number is likely to rise "significantly" when the missing are accounted for.

While the international community has donated USD 700 million, domestic anger has been mounting against the widely unpopular civilian government, which has come under fire for its handling of the crisis.

The UN has warned that the slow pace of aid pledges could impede relief operations and says Pakistan faces a triple threat to food supplies -- with seeds, crops and incomes hit.

Bureau Report