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Pakistan Braces for More Flooding as Human Toll Mounts

Pakistan says floodwaters have affected at least 12 million people across the country and fresh, heavy monsoon rains are likely to intensify the flooding in already devastated areas. The calamity has already killed more than 1,500 people.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has appealed for aid from the international community to help alleviate the human suffering. Pakistani officials say that the scale of the devastation caused by the country's worst flooding in history is increasing by the day. They estimate the calamity has destroyed 650,000 houses in northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and central Punjab provinces.

The floodwaters are now flowing into the southern province of Sindh, destroying hundreds of villages and communities. Pakistani authorities say they have evacuated more than 500,000 people so far and have yet to assess all the damage. The floods have washed away roads and key bridges, cutting off entire communities.

The disaster hit Pakistan at a time when the country is already struggling to repatriate hundreds of thousands of citizens uprooted by the army's campaign against Taliban militants.

In a televised address to the nation Friday night, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani appeals for international aid to help Pakistan deal with the crisis.

"The loss of human life and infrastructure is colossal," he said. "Real assessment of the damages can only be done once the water recedes. As I speak, the flood is still engulfing new areas and adding to the scale of devastation."

Local and international aid workers say that most of the victims in the flood-hit areas urgently need clean drinking water. They say there is a real danger that illnesses will develop very rapidly because the drinking water has been polluted by dying animals, livestock and human sewage.

Peter Kessler is a spokesman for the United Nations Refugee Agency in Pakistan. He says the fresh spell of rains is likely to worsen the situation.

"The rains are still falling in many parts of northern Pakistan. Waters in the rivers are rising in many areas, those areas that have been flooded in the last week. Many wells have been flooded with mud and sewage, so there is a great potential that the drinking water is polluted. So indeed there is a great need to get in shelter material, access to clean water, tools so that people can clean out their wells. So it is a race against time in all areas," said Kessler.

Financial assistance already has been offered by western allies, including the United States, Britain and the United Nations.

The Pakistani military, which is leading the rescue efforts, has airlifted thousands of people to safer areas. Six U.S military helicopters and dozens of personnel are also helping with relief activities. But U.S and local officials say that stormy weather on Friday grounded all the helicopters carrying emergency supplies to the flood-ravage northwestern region.

The World Food Program says that food supplies are becoming a serious issue in many parts of the flooded area. The organization has already delivered rations to more than 200,000 victims and is preparing to provide food assistance to hundreds of thousands of others during the next three months.

See images of Pakistan flood victims at a Nowshera relief camp, 6 August 2010: