News / Asia

Pakistan Orders Evacuations as Flooding Worsens

Authorities in Pakistan are evacuating tens of thousands more people in the southern part of the country as raging floodwaters inundate more cities and towns.  The new displacements are taking place as humanitarian aid agencies are struggling to bring relief to millions peoples uprooted by Pakistan's worst disaster.  

Pakistani officials issued the order after raging floodwaters broke through an embankment in the southern district of Thatta.

Provincial disaster management department spokesman Khair Mohammad said army personnel, helicopters and boats have been deployed to carry out the evacuations.

"[The] administration has issued a 'red alert.'  And all the population, which is settled in these cities and villages - they have been asked to vacate their houses," Mohammad said. "Due to this breach [of the embankment], it is apprehended that more than 500,000 people will be now affected and they have to be evacuated from there."

Muhammad also said the swollen Indus River is also threatening a second embankment in the region and that more towns might be inundated.

The floods have been triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains last month and have displaced nearly 20-million people across Pakistan.  The disaster has caused widespread damage to roads, bridges, crops, livestock and the country's agricultural infrastructure.  

Although floodwaters are beginning to recede across the country, weather experts say the risk of flooding in southern Sindh province will continue for another two weeks because of the possibility of more rain.

The United Nations has said humanitarian agencies are speeding up their delivery of emergency supplies to flood victims.

U.N. office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said the U.N. World Food Program has established a system to deliver urgently needed food to two-million flood victims, but there are at least four-million more who have yet to receive sufficient aid.  

"We just have to keep going faster and faster," Guiliano said. "And thanks to our donors who have increased their support. Since about two weeks ago, it is going better and better. Even though one word of caution is that the flooding is not finished; more people have been flooded in Sindh.  So the emergency is still evolving, still ongoing.  And the world has to be ready for a very important increase in the amount of requirements," he said.

Foreign countries have pledged more than $800 million in relief and have provided aid workers to help Pakistan cope the disaster.

U.N officials estimate that international donors have provided 60 percent of the of the nearly $460 million appeal to meet the urgent needs of flood victims.  In addition to committing millions of dollars in financial assistance, the United States has sent civilian and military helicopters as well as army personnel to help Pakistan with relief efforts.

U.N and Pakistani officials, meanwhile, are downplaying concerns that Taliban militants might attack foreign aid workers engaged in relief activities, saying any such attacks would spark a massive public backlash.

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