UN needs 40 choppers to ferry aid to flood-hit in Pak
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 23:43
Islamabad: UN on Wednesday said it needs at least 40 more heavy lift helicopters to ferry aid to an estimated 800,000 victims of the devastating floods in Pakistan who can be reached only by air even as the swollen Indus river continued to wreak havoc in the southern part of the country.

Flood waters have washed away hundreds of kilometres of vital roads and dozens of bridges.

This is of particular concern in the militancy-hit Swat valley of northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, the mountainous areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, aid agencies said.

In parts of the central and southern provinces of Punjab and Sindh, where the Indus river has burst its banks, hundreds of villages have been submerged and are currently unreachable by road.

"We need at least 40 additional heavy lift helicopters, working at full capacity, to reach the huge numbers of increasingly desperate people with life-saving relief," said Marcus Prior of the UN's World Food Programme.

As the floods continue to displace millions in southern Pakistan, an estimated 800,000 people across the country are only accessible by air, the UN said.

Several countries, including the US and Afghanistan, have supplied military helicopters for relief operations.

Prior said inaccessible areas were facing a shortage of food and other items.

"In northern areas that are cut off, markets are short of vital supplies, and prices are rising sharply. People are in need of food staples to survive," he said.

"There is currently no other way to reach these flood victims, other than by helicopter." The World Food Programme has appealed to the international community to provide a vital lifeline to airlift specialised food to protect young children in flood-hit areas.

WFP Country Director Wolfgang Herbinger said at least 30 airlifts by large transport aircraft will be needed over the next two months to ensure that specialist foods reach the most vulnerable victims.

The devastating floods, triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains in the last week of July, have caused havoc across a wide area ranging from northwest to southern Pakistan.

The floods have killed over 1,700 people and affected 20 million, of whom at least eight million are believed to require life-saving humanitarian aid.

Over 1.2 million homes have been damaged or destroyed, leaving an estimated six million people in need of emergency shelter.

Just over one million have received tents or plastic tarpaulins so far. In Sindh province, the Indus continued to be in "super flood" at the Kotri Barrage, where a flow of over 938,000 cusecs was recorded today.

The flood waters inundated low-lying areas in Hyderabad district as aid workers strengthened protective bunds with stones and sand bags.

Over 34,000 people made homeless by floods in Sindh have been accommodated at camps in Karachi. Another 30,000 displaced people have taken refuge in Jamshoro district.

Doctors in many areas are struggling to cope with the spread of waterborne diseases like diarrhoea and cholera.

The Meteorological Department forecast widespread thunderstorms and heavy rain in Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir during the next 24 hours.

The heavy rains could trigger a fresh wave of flooding, officials warned.

Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank and World Bank today said they had accepted a call by the Pakistan government to lead a "Damage and Needs Assessment" of the floods.

"The World Bank has completed numerous DNAs worldwide in collaboration with other key financing and donor institutions such as ADB and we will be bringing that experience to hear on this DNA, which is going to be a challenge considering the enormity of the disaster," said Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank's Country Director for Pakistan.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who toured flood-hit areas of Sindh today, said the assessment of losses to life and property would be completed in the shortest possible time to expedite compensation and rehabilitation of millions of displaced people.


First Published: Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 23:43

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