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.

PTI



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

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