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Pakistan Floods May Rival Three Recent Disasters

A United Nations official says the number of people affected by Pakistan's massive floods could exceed the combined total of three recent major natural disasters.

Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said Monday if the Pakistan government's calculations are correct, the scale of the disaster could be worse than Haiti's January earthquake, the 2004 tsunami, and the 2005 Pakistan earthquake combined.

New downpours

Relief workers in Pakistan say continued heavy rains have worsened the situation in the country where raging floodwaters have killed more than 1,600 people and affected 15 million.

The floods have destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and washed away roads, bridges, crops and livestock.

New downpours have hampered relief efforts in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and spread the floods to the agriculture heartland of Punjab and further south along the Indus River into Sindh province.

In the northern area of Gilgit-Baltistan Sunday, at least 28 people were killed in landslides, but officials said up to 40 people were feared dead.

Relief efforts

Pakistan's army is leading the relief efforts, but bad weather is hampering helicopter flights carrying emergency aid to victims still trapped in remote areas.

The United Nations says Pakistan will need billions of dollars to recover from its worst floods in history.

U.N. official Guiliano told VOA that shelter for the millions of victims is the biggest and most urgent concern.

Prime minister's visit

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani visited the flood-hit areas of Sindh province Sunday and appealed for more international aid.

He said the crisis has spiraled beyond the government's capacity, adding the country has been set back many years because of the devastation.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said its workers were reporting shortages of food, medicine and clean water. The NATO alliance pledged to help transport aid to the region.

The World Health Organization warned that without access to safe water, Pakistanis are at high risk of contracting water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

VOA's Sean Maroney visited a flood relief camp in Nowshera, Pakistan and has this report: