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Posts Tagged ‘flood-ravaged’

Aid begins to flow to flood-ravaged Pakistan

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2010 at 7:22 am

MULTAN, Pakistan (AFP) – Foreign aid has begun flowing to the 20 million victims of floods in Pakistan, but thousands remain without food or shelter as weather forecasts signalled there may be some let-up.

Monsoon systems were weakening after three weeks of torrential rains brought devastating floods that have left at least 1,400 people dead in the country’s worst natural disaster, with survivors hitting out at the government’s slow response.

(AFP) An aerial view shows water covering huge areas in the southern Punjab province.

The floods wiped out villages, farmland and infrastructure, and OCHA, the United Nations’ aid coordination body, said that more than 650,000 homeless families were still without basic shelter.

At a camp for 3,000 displaced people in the south of Punjab province, most sat in crippling heat, batting away mosquitoes. Concerns were growing about cholera and typhoid, while many were suffering from stomach problems.

Half were children, an army official told AFP, with a few crammed into tents furnished with straw cots, while others were held back by soldiers as they attempted to reach medical and food supplies arriving by helicopter.

The UN last week launched an immediate appeal for 460 million dollars, and said Wednesday that funding had reached 54.5 percent of this target, though that included pledges that were yet to turn into cash.

The nuclear-armed country is on the frontline of the US-led fight against Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani military is locked in battle with Taliban in the northwest, on the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has warned that the disaster could play into the hands of insurgents.

US ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, said: “We don’t know what impact it’s having on the insurgents… the idea that this flood would essentially come on top of a very corrosive insurgency is extremely worrisome.”

Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said the country had received more immediate relief aid through the UN and direct bilateral aid totalling about 301 million dollars (235 million euros).

The World Bank has also agreed to lend Islamabad 900 million dollars, warning that the disaster’s impact on the economy was expected to be “huge” and would take years to put right.

The European Union announced that it would provide an additional 30 million euros (39 million dollars) in emergency relief assistance, bringing its total aid to 70 million euros.

In Washington, the State Department said US aid to Pakistan had reached around 90 million dollars, adding: “America’s response to this tragic flood has been consistent with our humanitarian values and our deep commitment to Pakistan”.

Islamabad has confirmed 1,475 deaths, but WHO representative Guido Sabatinelli told AFP he suspected the toll was much higher.

“We’re talking about 20 million people affected today and there is no infrastructure and no health centres that can register the deaths,” he said.

About six million people are deemed to be at risk of deadly water-borne diseases, with typhoid, hepatitis and cholera major concerns.

“Two million dollars are needed every day to provide water, this is not sustainable. We don’t have two million dollars a day,” said Daniel Toole, the regional director for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Ambassador Akram said reconstruction in northern areas alone could cost 2.5 billion dollars and said the floods had ravaged an area the size of England.

In Islamabad Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the government was worried about some half million expectant mothers among the flood victims, and was making plans for those who would give birth soon.

“Among 14 million affected people there are about 500,000 pregnant mothers and we plan to move to or near hospitals those who are expected to deliver within two weeks,” Kaira said.

Kaira said the official toll of dead and injured, as well as the number of damaged houses, could rise once the floods began to recede.

“Total confirmed death toll is 1,475 and 2,052 people were wounded, and 970,520 houses were damaged. These numbers may change on the higher side as the flood water recedes and damage assessment begins.”

Former Pakistani cricket hero and politician Imran Khan Wednesday, along with a leading newspaper group, launched a fund-raising campaign to aid the flood victims.

“People do not trust government, so we have come forward and every rupee donated for flood-hit people will be accounted for,” Khan told a news conference in Islamabad.

Source: SGGP

New rains leave 33 more dead in flood-ravaged China

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 at 7:23 am

BEIJING, Aug 13, 2010 (AFP) – Torrential rains on Friday battered several parts of western China, killing at least 33 people and heightening fears of a disease outbreak in a mudslide-ravaged town where more than 1,150 have died.

Health authorities said survivors of the deadly floods and landslides in Zhouqu, a remote town in the mountains of Gansu province in China’s northwest, were facing a grim situation after clinics were damaged and vaccines ruined.

The bad weather showed no signs of letting up, with at least 33 people killed and 32 missing after floods and landslides in other parts of Gansu and neighbouring Sichuan province, as China battles its worst flooding in a decade.

In Zhouqu, 588 people are still missing after the weekend avalanche of mud and rocks, which levelled an area five kilometres (three miles) long and 300 metres wide. The latest official death toll stood at 1,156 as of Friday.

“Rescue work is continuing, but the recent rains have caused some difficulties,” Yan Jinxin, a spokeswoman for the Zhouqu county government, told AFP by telephone on Friday.

“The roads are muddy and hard to get through,” she said, adding that more rain was expected in the afternoon.

An official with the Gannan prefectural government, who gave only his surname, Yu, said that more raincoats, gloves and medicines were needed in the mudslide zone.

But state television announced a piece of good news, saying water supplies had been restored to the county on Friday.

The risk of the spread of disease was nevertheless mounting, a health ministry official told the state Xinhua news agency.

“A large number of rescue and relief workers and survivors are now living there, increasing the risk of intestinal and respiratory infectious diseases,” said the official.

Efforts to disinfect the area were difficult, and the decomposition of human and animal corpses buried under the mountains of sludge and debris in the town would aggravate the situation, the official said.

About 800 medical workers have been dispatched to the region following the mudslides, which state media described as the worst in 60 years in China.

Tonnes of garlic and Sichuan pepper, which in China are believed to guard against various ailments, have been sent to Zhouqu, state media said, citing local health authorities.

Troops were still using excavators and explosives to clear blockages in the Bailong river which cuts through Zhouqu.

There had been fears that a barrier lake created by the rubble could bring further chaos if it were to burst, but Zhang Guoxin, vice-director of the Gansu land resources department, said late Thursday it had been drained.

Zhang also said the risk of any of the dams along the Bailong bursting had been “basically eliminated”, according to a statement on the provincial government’s website.

Elsewhere in Gansu, 28 people were killed and 24 others left missing in the cities of Longnan and Tianshui, not far from Zhouqu, the civil affairs ministry said.

Local authorities were evacuating residents and sending tents, instant noodles and bottled water to those areas.

In Sichuan, five people were killed and eight missing in rural, mountainous Mianzhu, Xinhua said, citing a local official. Thousands were also evacuated in Shaanxi province following heavy rains.

The mudslides in Zhouqu are the latest in a string of weather-related disasters across China. More than 2,100 people were left dead or missing and 12 million evacuated nationwide before the Zhouqu incident.

The civil affairs ministry said Friday it had not calculated a new nationwide flood death toll.

Source: SGGP

US increases aid to flood-ravaged Pakistan

In Uncategorized on August 13, 2010 at 11:21 am

SUKKUR, Pakistan (AFP) – The United States has upped its aid to flood-ravaged Pakistan and announced a visit by a political heavyweight to show its commitment to a fractious ally where anti-US feeling runs high.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, attempting to fend off anger at his own response to the disaster, visited a hard-hit area for the first time on Thursday and handed out relief.

A Pakistani mother tries to calm her crying child in her tent at a school converted to a camp for flood survivors on the outskirts of Nowshera on August 12, 2010. AFP

He came under fire from victims and the opposition for failing to cut short a trip to Europe to deal personally with what is now the country’s worst humanitarian crisis.

US Senator John Kerry will visit Pakistan next week to raise public awareness and drum up donations, an official said as Washington increased its contribution to the relief effort by 21 million dollars.

“This will be a critical visit to help raise the profile among publics both in the US and internationally,” said Dan Feldman, the US deputy special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan is a top US priority due to concerns over Islamic extremism in the nuclear-armed nation, and as US-led forces battle to quell the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

But while US military helicopters and aid packages have been important to the relief effort, hardline Islamic charities have been still more visible on the ground in distributing desperately needed food, water and medicine.

Kerry, a former presidential candidate who chairs the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, will be the first senior US policymaker to visit since the disaster, which has affected up to 20 million people.

Zardari visited Sukkur in the densely populated southern province of Sindh Thursday and was briefed about the damage and relief effort in Sindh.

The president has defended his decision not to cut short his overseas tour, saying he used talks in London and Paris to drum up much-needed aid, and told flood victims that the government was doing all it could.

But his visit to Sindh was criticised by the main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz as too little, too late.

“He is president of Pakistan and he should behave like a president,” party spokesman Siddiqul Farooq said.

Pakistan says 15-20 million people face direct or indirect harm from the floods. The United Nations believes 1,600 people have died, while Islamabad has confirmed 1,343 deaths.

The UN has appealed for 460 million dollars in foreign aid and says billions will be needed in the long term, with survivors facing grim conditions in makeshift tent cities and diseases rife in the unbearable heat.

The UN humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, said pledges of 195 million dollars had already been made.

The United States, which has put Pakistan on the front line of its war on Al-Qaeda, has begun dispatching Marine helicopters from an amphibious assault ship to help in the aid operation.

With its latest aid pledge, the total US financial contribution to the flood relief effort comes to 76 million dollars.

After touring flood-hit areas with diplomats, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said late Thursday: “We immediately need tents for shelter, food for survivors, water purification plant and medicines for cholera, malaria and other water-borne diseases.”

In the south, a mass exodus of people was straining local economies and infrastructure, said Sindh government spokesman Jameel Soomro.

“We have a plan to shift flood victims to tent cities… More than 100,000 people have arrived in Sukkur from different flood-hit areas, which is more than five percent of the city’s population,” he said.

Source: SGGP