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Thousands Flee Floods in Pakistan, India

  • VOA News

A truck evacuating Kashmiri flood victims to higher ground travels through a flooded street in Srinagar, Sept. 10, 2014.

A truck evacuating Kashmiri flood victims to higher ground travels through a flooded street in Srinagar, Sept. 10, 2014.

Floods that have killed at least 457 people in India and Pakistan began to recede on Wednesday giving rescue teams a chance to evacuate thousands of villagers stranded by the heaviest rainfall in 50 years in the heavily-militarized and disputed region of Kashmir.

On the Indian side of the divided region, floods and landslides have cut off more than one million people from basic services, triggering a massive military rescue operation that has so far evacuated 80,000 from villages and city rooftops.

Anger has mounted with residents concerned about the slow pace of relief and rescue operations. Others complained about living conditions in temporary camps.

Chief minister of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, Omar Abdullah, says paramilitary and defense forces are trying their best to get relief to those in need.

"It cannot be denied that the situation is grim. We are trying our best to reach out to people," he said. "The army, air force, NDRF [National Disaster Response Force], police, CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force], BSF [Border Security Force], civil administration, they are all trying to reach out to the maximum number of people and provide relief."

A mother carrying a child cries while evacuating her home along the flooded Chenab River, in Jhang, Pakistan, Sept. 10, 2014.

A mother carrying a child cries while evacuating her home along the flooded Chenab River, in Jhang, Pakistan, Sept. 10, 2014.

The most populous province of Pakistan, Punjab, has been badly hit and a National Disaster Management Authority spokesman told VOA's Urdu service that more than one million people in the province have been affected.

"So far 127,000 people have been evacuated," he said. "Over 570 boats and 15 helicopters are taking part in the relief activities to evacuate people from the flood-hit areas."

The flooding is the first major humanitarian emergency under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and also comes at a difficult time for Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has faced weeks of street protests aimed at forcing him out.

South Asia monsoon season lasts from June to September, with the rains being vital for the region's agriculture. But the rains frequently turn to floods, devastating crops, destroying homes and prompting outbreaks of diseases and diarrhea.

The floods have swept away homes and destroyed roads and swaths of farmland in a chilling reminder of the damage wrought by 2010 floods, the worst in the recent history, that killed more than 1,700 people and affected 18 million.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

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