Hundreds killed in monsoon floods

2010-07-31 09:16

Rescue workers and troops in northwest Pakistan were this morning struggling to reach thousands of people affected by the worst floods in living memory as the death toll rose above 400.

Hundreds of homes and vast swathes of farmland were destroyed in the northwest and Pakistani Kashmir, with the main highway to China reportedly cut and communities isolated as monsoon rains caused flash floods and landslides.

“This is the worst ever flood in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the country’s history,” provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said yesterday.

“At least 408 deaths have been confirmed in floods and rain-related incidents across the province,” he said.

Another 150 people were missing in the northwestern province, where impoverished families live in remote mountain villages.

At least 600 000 people have been affected and the number was likely to escalate as river levels continue to rise, the minister said.

Peshawar, the main city in the northwest, and the districts of Swat and Shangla were cut off from the rest of the country as roads and highways were submerged in water, he said.

The army said it had sent boats and helicopters to rescue stranded people and military engineers were attempting to open roads and divert the waters from key routes.

The death toll dwarfed the 152 killed when a Pakistani passenger jet crashed into hills overlooking Islamabad on Wednesday and capped a week of tragedy for the nation of 167 million people.

Relief organisations had earlier put the toll at 325 dead.

“We have so far gathered the figure of 325 deaths due to flash floods in the northwest and (Pakistan-controlled) Kashmir,” Anwer Kazmi, spokesperson for Pakistan’s largest charity the Edhi Foundation said.

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