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Posts Tagged ‘survivors’

Australia says little hope of more survivors from boat wreck

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2010 at 8:57 am

SYDNEY, Dec 17, 2010 (AFP) – Australia said Friday there was little hope of finding more survivors from a people-smuggling boat which smashed into Christmas Island two days ago and that the full death toll may never be known.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said divers had recovered two more bodies, bringing the official death toll to 30, as air and sea searches continued for survivors after their wooden fishing boat sank early Wednesday.

“We do need to face the grim reality that it is becoming increasingly unlikely, an increasingly remote possibility, that survivors will be found at this stage,” she told reporters in Sydney.

“It remains unclear exactly how many people were on the vessel and we may never know that number with precision,” she said, adding that three Indonesian crew were among the 42 survivors.

The wooden fishing boat crowded with up to 100 Iraqi, Kurdish and Iranian asylum seekers and their families was dashed against jagged rocks in dangerous seas at the remote Indian Ocean outpost early on Wednesday, throwing all on board into the churning water.

Of those pulled alive from the sea, five were evacuated to Perth for medical treatment while the rest were being treated on Christmas Island, which lies 2,600 kilometres (1,612 miles) from the mainland.

Australia has a policy of mandatory detention of boat people and uses Christmas Island as its main processing facility to determine whether they are legitimate refugees.

While boats are often picked up as they attempt to make their way to the island, Gillard said authorities had not been aware that this particular boat was approaching.

“The people smuggling vessel was not sighted until it was sighted from Christmas Island itself by residents,” she said, adding that Australia’s sea patrols covered a massive area.

“If we look at the amount of ocean that lies to our north, the area that we seek to keep under watch, the area in which we are most likely to see asylum seeker vessels, that area is more than 1.4 million square nautical miles.

“Consequently I think people would understand, with such a big area, that it is possible for a boat to get to Christmas Island and not be detected.”

The tragedy has sparked renewed debate on Asia’s people smuggling trade, which has brought more than 5,000 asylum seekers from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to Australia this year, mostly on unseaworthy vessels from Indonesia.

Gillard said that Australian authorities were working closely with the people smuggling task force from the Indonesian National Police, but did not specify where she believed the boat had come from.

Indonesian police said there was no criminal element to the boat wreck, while Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said Jakarta had no comment on the latest loss of life involving asylum seekers in the waters between Java and the Australian mainland.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to get tough with the smugglers during a visit to Australia earlier this year, and Gillard raised the issue when she visited Jakarta last month.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the government would stick to its strategy of attempting to create a regional processing centre, possibly in East Timor, aiming to break the people-smuggling rings operating in Asia.

Australia has said Wednesday’s accident will be the subject of a criminal investigation and a coroner’s probe.

Source: SGGP

No survivors from French helicopter crash in Antarctica

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2010 at 11:41 am

SYDNEY, Oct 30, 2010 (AFP) – Australian rescuers on Saturday confirmed there were no survivors from a helicopter crash involving four Frenchmen in Antarctica.

“They have confirmed that all four on board didn’t survive the impact of the crash and the French team are currently conducting recovery operations,” an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spokeswoman told AFP.

The AS350 Squirrel helicopter went missing Thursday after taking off from the French research ship Astrolabe, carrying a pilot, a mechanic and two staff from the Dumont d’Urville French Antarctic research base.

A distress beacon was activated but heavy weather hampered search efforts. An Australian air force plane eventually spotted the wreckage on Friday, with three bodies sighted among the debris.

The AMSA spokeswoman said a French helicopter touched down at the crash site, 100 kilometres from the French base, on Saturday afternoon and an onboard doctor confirmed there had been no survivors.

Australian and American officials from McMurdo Base were assisting with the recovery of the bodies and wreckage, she added. Responsibility for the matter was expected to be transferred to the French authorities by evening.

Officials had held little hope for the men, with rescuers spying three bodies strewn among a large field of debris when the wreckage was first spotted Friday. AMSA had described it as an “unsurvivable” incident.

The helicopter was last observed at an altitude of just 29 feet (10 metres), travelling at only 20 knots (37 kilometres per hour), sparking initial hopes that it had decided to land due to the extremely low visibility.

Dumont d’Urville, the main French Antarctic base, is situated on an island close to the magnetic south pole and is frequently buffeted by hurricane-strength katabatic winds, the force of which can prevent helicopters from landing.

The east Antarctic is known as the “home of the blizzard”.

The icebreaking Astrolabe carries out regular round trips between the southern Australian port of Hobart and the base from November through to March, carrying both supplies and personnel.

It is currently icebound several hundred kilometres from the Dumont d’Urville base.

A vast colony of emperor penguins live near to the base, which was the backdrop for the hugely popular 2005 movie “March of the Penguins”.

Subjects under research at the base include earth sciences, atmospheric studies and biology.

Source: SGGP

Indonesia battles to aid tsunami survivors

In Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 at 9:40 am

A woman searches for her belongings in a collapsed house in Taparaboat village in the Mentawai islands, West Sumatra, on October 28, 2010. AFP

NORTH PAGAI, Indonesia (AFP) – Indonesia battled to deliver aid to remote islands where a tsunami has killed over 400 people, as bodies lay strewn on beaches and buried in debris days after the wave hit.

Disaster response officials believe the final death toll from the huge wave that hit the Mentawai island chain off the west coast of Sumatra Monday could pass 600, with many of the victims sucked out to sea as the tsunami receded.

Almost 13,000 people are living in makeshift camps on the islands after their homes were wiped out in the wave, which was triggered by a powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake.

Elsewhere in the disaster-prone archipelago, the nation’s most active volcano, Mount Merapi, was spewing lava and ash, threatening residents who may have returned to their homes after an eruption on Tuesday killed 34 people.

“It shot heat clouds at 6:10 am as far as 3.5 kilometres (over two miles) down its southeastern slopes and followed this with ash rain,” volcanologist Heru Suparwoko told AFP.

The clouds were “definitely dangerous” for people who had refused to obey orders to evacuate the danger zone on the island of Java or who had returned to tend to their livestock and property, he added.

Some 50,000 people have fled to temporary shelters but many are returning to their fields on the volcano during the day, despite the threat of another deadly eruption.

On the Mentawais, a legendary destination for foreign surfers but an otherwise poor and neglected part of Indonesia, bodies were being found buried on beaches and even stuck in trees.

The latest official death toll stood at 408, with 303 still listed as missing. Officials said as many as 200 of the missing were not expected to be found alive.

“When we flew over the area yesterday (Wednesday) we saw many bodies. Heads and legs were sticking out of the sand, some of them were in the trees,” disaster official Ade Edward said Thursday.

Indonesia initially refused offers of foreign aid but Australia announced that Jakarta had accepted about one million US dollars worth of assistance for both disasters.

The European Commission released 1.5 million euros (two million dollars) in aid and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations stood ready to assist in any way.

“Indonesia is currently addressing a multitude of emergencies, whose cumulative impact is putting local capacity under severe strain,” European aid chief Kristalina Georgieva said.

The United States and several Asian countries have also offered help.

Bad weather has hampered efforts to ferry aid such as tents, medicine, food and water to the islands by boat from the nearest port of Padang, which is more than half a day away even in the best conditions.

Troops and warships have been dispatched to the region but more helicopters and boats are needed to ferry aid to the most isolated communities, some of which lack roads and wireless communications.

“Our staff have been waiting in Padang since Monday night to reach the remote area. They are now still in Padang,” World Vision emergency response director Jimmy Nadapdap said.

Dave Jenkins of independent health agency Surfaid International, which is based in the Mentawais, said: “Bad weather is forecast and a severely challenging situation has been made a lot worse.”

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited the area Thursday and told survivors the government was doing everything it could to help them.

Officials have batted away questions about why an expensive warning system — established after the 2004 Asian tsunami killed almost 170,000 people on Sumatra and nearby islands — failed to alert people on the Mentawais.

Survivors said the only warning they received was the “roaring” sound of the wave as it sped towards them shortly before 10:00 pm, although an official tsunami alert had been issued in Jakarta.

An official responsible for the warnings blamed local authorities on the Mentawais for failing to pass on the alert, telling reporters: “We don’t feel there was any mistake.”

The Indonesian archipelago is studded with scores of active volcanoes and stretches from the Pacific to the Indian oceans, spanning several tectonic plates meeting on a so-called “ring of fire”.

According to the US Geological Survey, Monday’s earthquake was “the latest in a sequence of large ruptures along the Sunda megathrust” including the 2004 quake.

Source: SGGP

Relief workers try to reach Megi survivors in Philippines

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2010 at 11:04 am

CAUAYAN, Philippines, Oct 20, 2010 (AFP) – Typhoon Megi inched away from the Philippines on Wednesday after killing 19 people, as relief workers scrambled to deliver aid to remote towns that were devastated by the storm.

The governor of the hardest-hit province of Isabela, Faustino Dy said that residents in three coastal towns had suffered massive damage to their homes and were left with limited food supplies after huge waves washed away roads.

Volunteers help clear mudslide near a house in Baguio City, Benguet province, north of Manila on October 20, 2010. AFP

“Their food supply is only up to Sunday. But going there is very difficult. There is no road to reach them,” Dy told reporters in Cauayan, the closest city to the worst-hit towns.

Dy, who had flown by helicopter to the devastated areas, said that as many as 20,000 people were affected.

Many of them had survived by fleeing into the mountains before Megi hit, he and other officials said.

Regional social welfare chief Arnel Garcia said the government planned to send food and tents to the affected towns of Maconacon, Palanan and Divilacan but that both air and sea travel were dangerous.

“Helicopters have to pass through the mountains and the mountain ranges are often covered with clouds,” Garcia said.

US ambassador Harry Thomas said in a statement that US military personnel and equipment that was already in the Philippines for a joint exercise would be diverted for typhoon relief.

“My embassy team is in constant contact with Philippine authorities and NGO (non-governmental organisation) representatives to determine how we can be of further assistance,” Thomas said in a statement issued by the embassy.

Megi smashed mostly farming and fishing areas of northern Luzon with gusts of 260 kilometres (160 miles) an hour on Monday, making it the strongest typhoon in the world this year.

The three million residents of Isabela province and other areas of the Cagayan Valley farming region were the worst hit.

The government raised the death toll to 19 on Wednesday, up from 14 the previous day, after more detailed reports from around Luzon were compiled.

The civil defence bureau said it was still sheltering over 10,000 people in evacuation centres across northern Luzon while roads were being cleared.

Although the typhoon was already over the South China Sea, the government weather station said it had remained almost stationary on Wednesday, hovering over the western coast of the Philippines.

The typhoon, which is still packing maximum gusts of 210 kilometres (130 miles) per hour, is expected to continue hovering throughout the day before moving northeast towards southern China, the weather station said.

The first level of a four-step storm alert remained in effect over several provinces in the northern Philippines due to continuing rain from the typhoon.

Source: SGGP

In U-turn, some survivors accept KRouge sentence

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2010 at 11:22 am

PHNOM PENH, Aug 12, 2010 (AFP) – A group of rare survivors of the Khmer Rouge’s main prison said Thursday they accepted the sentence handed to their former jailer Duch, having initially criticised it as too lenient.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was sentenced to 30 years in jail by a UN-backed court last month for crimes against humanity over the mass murder of 15,000 men, women and children at Tuol Sleng prison.

Many survivors and relatives of victims were dismayed by the sentence, which also took into account the years Duch has served since his arrest in 1999, meaning that he could walk free in about 19 years.

But three prominent survivors, who had demanded Duch be sentenced to life in jail, changed their minds on Thursday after receiving copies of the court ruling during a ceremony at the former prison.

They raised the verdict books into the air and told the souls of those killed there: “This is justice that we have been waiting for.”

“I am very pleased after receiving copies of the verdict book from the court,” said Bou Meng, one of a handful of inmates who survived Tuol Sleng.

“The verdict is not 100 percent perfect, but it is acceptable,” he said.

Fellow survivor Chum Mey told reporters that he had changed his mind after taking into account the court’s independence and its efforts to seek justice for the victims.

Cambodian chief of the public affairs section of the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), Reach Sambath (R), survivors of the infamous Tuol Sleng prison, Vann Nath (2R) Chum Mey (2 L) and Bou Meng (L) hold books about the verdict on former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch at Tuol Sleng on August 12, 2010. AFP

“This is a historic verdict for the young generation,” said Chum Mey, who suffered 12 days of beatings at Tuol Sleng until he falsely confessed to spying on the regime.

The court has printed thousands of copies of the 450-page verdict to be distributed to the Cambodian people, according to a spokesman for the tribunal.

Duch, 67, was the first Khmer Rouge cadre to face an international tribunal.

He was initially handed 35 years but the court reduced the jail sentence on the grounds that he had been detained illegally for years before the UN-backed tribunal was established. His lawyer has said he plans to appeal.

Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for one of the worst horrors of the 20th century, wiping out nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population through starvation, overwork and execution.

Source: SGGP

Hopes fade for China mudslide survivors

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2010 at 11:22 am

ZHOUQU, China (AFP) – Rescuers in northwest China on Tuesday battled on with the grim task of searching for over 1,100 people missing in huge mudslides that have killed 337, but hopes faded that many would be saved.

At least three villages were levelled by an avalanche of mud and rocks triggered by heavy rains Saturday in a remote area of Gansu province — the latest deadly disaster as China battles its worst flooding in a decade.

A survivor jumps into floodwaters as rescuers (background) evacuate people from flooded buildings in Zhouqu, causing flooding in northwest China’s Gansu province on August 8, 2010. AFP

With more rain forecast for later in the week, Premier Wen Jiabao — who comforted survivors of the devastation in hardest-hit Zhouqu on Monday — urged rescuers to hurry but acknowledged the task would be an arduous one.

“We must fully realise the difficulties for the search and rescue work,” Wen was quoted as saying by the state Xinhua news agency.

“You must race against the clock and spare no efforts in saving lives.”

President Hu Jintao presided over a meeting of senior Communist Party leaders Tuesday on how to handle the crisis, Xinhua said.

Thousands of soldiers and rescuers armed mainly with shovels, hoes and rope hunted for survivors in Zhouqu, the county seat, where homes were torn apart and streets still buried in mud as deep as two metres (six feet) in places.

“My older brother is buried here. He was on the ground floor,” Chen Xue, 45, told AFP, pointing at a house submerged in mud. Only the third floor poked through the sludge.

Chen said he had travelled a full day from neighbouring Sichuan province to try to find his sibling, who was doing construction work in Zhouqu.

“I will wait here until they bring him out,” he said, acknowledging that his brother had likely died in the disaster, as rescue workers used shovels and picks to go through the mess, some with the help of sniffer dogs.

The landslides swept mud, houses, cars and other debris into the Bailong river running through Zhouqu, blocking the waterway and triggering flooding in the mountainous area, the government said.

The Bailong remained flooded on Tuesday, with only the tops of street lamps visible above the water line, an AFP correspondent saw.

The mudslides levelled an area five kilometres (three miles) long and 500 metres wide, Xinhua said. Floodwaters up to three storeys high have submerged half the county, where one third of the population is Tibetan.

Roads and bridges have also been destroyed.

Aerial photos published by state media showed Zhouqu essentially split in two by a massive river of mud.

In the centre of town, the pungent odour of death permeated the air. Residents wandered about, searching for their relatives. Tibetan women cried and chanted in mourning for the victims.

The death toll jumped to 337 Monday, Xinhua said, quoting Chen Jianhua, communist party chief of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous prefecture. Another 1,148 others were missing.

Chen said 218 injured survivors had been taken to local hospitals. More than 40 people with serious injuries were transferred to the provincial capital Lanzhou for treatment.

He told a press briefing that families of dead will be given a payment of 8,000 yuan (1,200 dollars) for each family member lost in the disaster.

In Zhouqu, residents queued for food and bottled water, an AFP correspondent saw. Tens of thousands were reportedly in need, and aid agencies were rushing supplies to the disaster zone.

Authorities have sent more than 4,500 soldiers, police, firefighters and medics to help in search and rescue efforts. Signs of life were heard on Monday, Xinhua quoted rescuers as saying.

More rain was forecast for the area from Wednesday.

The government had said more than 2,100 people were dead or missing nationwide in flood-related disasters before the Gansu mudslides. More than 12 million others have been evacuated from their homes.

Source: SGGP

Rescuers in desperate hunt for survivors of China mudslides

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2010 at 7:24 am

WENXIAN, China, Aug 9, 2010 (AFP) – Soldiers and rescuers battled Monday through an avalanche of sludge and debris as they raced to find survivors of mudslides that killed at least 127 people and left 1,300 missing in northwest China.

At least one village was entirely engulfed by a torrent of mud and rocks triggered by heavy rains in a remote area of Gansu province — the latest deadly disaster in a summer that has seen China’s worst flooding in a decade.

Rescuers carry a survivor who was found in debris after a deadly flood-triggered landslide hit Zhouqu, in northwest China’s Gansu province on August 8, 2010. AFP

Premier Wen Jiabao, who arrived in the devastated area on Sunday, urged the thousands of rescue workers at the scene to hasten efforts to locate survivors and provide relief to about 45,000 people who have been evacuated.

“For those buried under the debris, now it’s the most crucial time to save their lives,” Wen was quoted by the state Xinhua news agency as saying late Sunday, saying efforts would continue as long as hope of survival existed.

Authorities have sent more than 4,500 soldiers, police, firefighters and medics to help in search and rescue efforts after the landslides in the ethnically Tibetan region, triggered by a deluge of rain late Saturday.

The task in hardest-hit Zhouqu county would not be an easy one. Streets were covered with mud as thick as two metres (yards) in some spots. Cars and homes were buried in the onslaught of debris. Roads and bridges were destroyed.

“Many people were trapped. Now sludge has become the biggest problem for rescue operations. It’s too thick to walk or drive through,” said county head Diemujiangteng.

The landslides swept mud, houses, cars and other debris into a river running through Zhouqu, blocking the waterway and triggering flooding in the valley, the government said. At one point, half the county was submerged.

Wen inspected the devastation in the worst-hit Sanyan valley, where a village of at least 300 houses was submerged by the mudslide, and many residents were still without power, clean drinking water or phone lines.

The mudslides levelled an area five kilometres (three miles) long and 500 metres wide, Xinhua said, with floodwaters reaching as high as three storeys at one point.

“That night, I went to the door to check what had happened after I heard a strong wind and unusual rumbling,” He Xinchao, a 44-year-old man who was rescued with his three-year-old son on Sunday, told the China Daily.

“As soon as I opened the door, mud squeezed in,” said He, who clung to a pole overnight to survive. “For the entire night, water and mud kept rising, covering my chest and edging up to my neck.”

Nine members of He’s family were still missing, he said.

Soldiers and rescuers have been forced to use shovels and even their bare hands to clear the mud, as no heavy equipment was in place in Gannan prefecture, and would have been useless anyway given the thickness of the mud.

Some people awaited rescue on their rooftops. Others walked through the streets carrying their dead loved ones on wooden boards, covered in bed sheets, the China Daily reported.

A total of 1,294 people were missing as of Sunday night, down from an earlier estimate of 2,000, Xinhua said, quoting the rescue headquarters in Zhouqu. Reports said more than 680 people had been rescued.

“It’s very hard to locate the people washed away by floods. It’s hard to say what their chances of survival are,” said He Youxin, whose rescue team had so far saved 23 people and recovered 15 bodies.

Reports said 88 people had also been injured.

Torrential downpours had stopped, reports said, but the local weather bureau has forecast more rain in the coming days.

Authorities have sent electricity generators, tents, instant noodles and bottled water to the region, about one third of whose residents are ethnic Tibetans.

Troops used explosives on Monday to blast away the mud and debris blocking the Bailong River, Xinhua said.

The region was among the worst hit by the massive earthquake in neighbouring Sichuan province in 2008.

According to government figures issued before the latest disaster, the number of people killed or missing in floods across China this year has risen to more than 2,100.

China’s civil affairs ministry said Friday more than 12 million had been evacuated from their homes, with 1.4 million homes destroyed. The floods have caused 275 billion yuan (41 billion dollars) in direct economic losses so far.

In China’s northeast, entire towns have been flooded and rivers bordering North Korea swollen to critical levels.

North Korean state media said floods in the impoverished nation had washed away homes, roads, railways and farmland, but gave no casualty figures.

Source: SGGP

Rescuers hope for survivors after floods kill 120 in Kashmir

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2010 at 11:20 am

SRINAGAR, India, Aug 7, 2010 (AFP) – Rescuers struggled to find survivors Saturday after devastating floods caused by freak rains killed at least 120 people in a remote part of Indian Kashmir popular for adventure sports.

Scores remained missing Saturday as heavy rainfall briefly disrupted rescue efforts and raised fears of more flooding, with several villages in the stark Himalayan border region still cut off.

“The death toll is likely to increase from 120 as more bodies are arriving,” said a senior police official, asking not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

At least 400 people were reported injured in the floods, which struck without warning in the region which shares a sensitive border with China and has a large Indian military presence.

Thousands more were left homeless in the disaster, which came as India’s neighbour Pakistan has been hit by the country’s worst flooding in living memory, affecting up to 15 million people.

Shops in a newly built market in Leh, the main town in the majority Buddhist Ladakh area, were transformed into temporary mortuaries where rescuers laid out bodies.

A Lal Pir Thermal Power building is seen surrounded by floodwaters in Lal Pir, Pakistan on August 7, 2010. AFP

India’s military was helping in the rescue efforts after floodwaters — triggered by a cloudburst in the normally arid region — swamped Leh and surrounding villages in the early hours of Friday as people slept.

Among those killed by the flash floods and mudslides were labourers from various Indian states.

“Our immediate priority is to look for survivors,” said state tourism minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, who was directing rescue efforts in Leh.

Rescuers waded in knee-deep mud to reach victims trapped in collapsed buildings in Leh, which lies 3,500 metres (11,500 feet) above sea level.

A powerful six-foot (two-metre) wave of water, mud and sand left the area looking “like it was bombed,” R.S. Raina, who works for state broadcaster Doordarshan in Leh, told AFP. “I’ve never seen such devastation,” Raina said.

The mountainous area in the southeastern part of Muslim-majority Kashmir is a favourite destination for foreign adventure tourists interested in trekking and river rafting.

Farooq Shah, the region’s director of tourism, said only one foreign tourist was known to have been injured and was out of danger. But he said the situation would become clearer in a day or two as some tourists had travelled to remote villages now cut off by the devastation.

Up to 3,000 tourists were staying in Leh but none of the major hotels suffered serious damage, Leh tourism official Nissar Hussain said. Many tourists were now assisting the relief operations.

Air Force flights resumed to Leh airport Saturday, bringing vital relief supplies, after workers cleared runways of mud and debris.

But the floodwaters had washed away parts of the main highway to the town, making road transport difficult.

“The flights have brought in relief material, including medicines,” tourism official Nissar Hussain told AFP. Private airlines had also resumed operations, allowing some foreign tourists to leave.

Some 25 soldiers were missing after the floods washed away several army posts, said army spokesman Sitanshu Kar.

Civilian doctors were operating in the main army hospital as “the Leh Civil Hospital has been filled with mud,” Kar said.

Rivers in the area had already been running high due to heavy runoff from melting winter snows, exacerbating the disaster, officials said.

Source: SGGP

Desperate Pakistan flood survivors clamour for aid

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2010 at 11:19 am

CHARSADDA, Pakistan (AFP) – Desperate survivors crushed into relief centres Wednesday after Pakistan’s worst floods in living memory as the country braced for more storms that threaten to deepen the humanitarian crisis.

With over three million people hit by the flooding, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is to chair a special cabinet meeting to speed up the relief work and estimate the damage — expected to run into millions of dollars.

Pakistani flood survivors speak with sucurity personnel as they wait for their turn to board army boats while they are evacuated from the flood-hit Chakdarra area of Swat on August 4, 2010. AFP

Record rains last week triggered floods and landslides that washed away entire villages and ruined farmland in one of the country’s most impoverished and volatile regions, already hard hit by Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence.

The international community has mobilised with offers of aid after the flooding that aid workers say has killed 1,500 people and affected 3.2 million, including 1.4 million children, according to UN and Pakistani figures.

“This is a serious humanitarian disaster,” the UN humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, told AFP, saying that discussions were under way to determine whether the situation warranted a fresh appeal for donor aid.

Anger was at boiling point among impoverished survivors complaining they had been abandoned by the government after their livelihoods were swept away and protesting at a “joy ride” visit to Europe by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistan has issued new flood warnings as the rains spread across the country, threatening to compound the misery of hundreds of thousands of victims. Many have fled disaster areas, their belongings piled into donkey carts and cars, or taken refuge in mosques.

“We are facing severe shortages of food and medicine. People need food, they need medicine. We fear they will be die from hunger if not provided on time,” information minister in the northwest, Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters.

The United Nations said clean drinking water and sanitation were urgently needed to stop disease spreading after Pakistan’s worst floods in 80 years following relentless monsoon rains.

UN World Food Programme (WFP) executive director Josette Sheeran said the agency had was working to hand out supplies to 250,000 people during the week, saying more than 1.8 million people were in need of food assistance.

“Access remains a major challenge to mounting distributions, with many areas effectively cut off,” WFP said.

Nadeem Ahmad, chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, estimated that roughly three million people were affected — 1.5 million in the northwest and the same number in the central province Punjab.

Authorities in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa issued an alert to people living around Warsak Dam, one of the country’s biggest dams and lying outside Peshawar, as water levels rose.

Pakistan’s weather bureau forecast widespread rains in the southern province of Sindh, Pakistani-held Kashmir and southwestern Baluchistan, as well as the hardest hit areas in the northwest and Punjab over the next two days.

The military, Pakistan’s most powerful institution, said more than 54,000 people had been rescued from flood-hit areas and moved to safer places, with 40 helicopters and 450 army boats mobilised.

The United States, which has pledged 10 million dollars in aid, said it was sending in army helicopters to help with the relief effort.

Canada announced two million dollars in emergency aid while China said it was sending in 1.5 million dollars of supplies, in addition to pledges of aid from the United Nations and Britain among others.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity on a UN terror blacklist and considered a front for the group blamed by India for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, said it was sending in 10 truck-loads of goods and nine medical teams to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A trail of destruction lined the road from Peshawar to Charsada, one of the worst hit areas, where houses and shops were razed to the ground Wednesday as if a massive earthquake had jolted the region, said an AFP reporter.

Anwer Kazmi, a spokesman for Pakistan’s largest charity the Edhi Foundation said it had reports that more than 1,500 people had died, although officials fear the toll could still rise further.

The United Nations has said around 980,000 people had lost their homes or been temporarily displaced.

But 2,000 people, including women in burqas, who thronged the home of a local politician to receive food items in Shah Alam village near Charsadda said they had received no assistance from the government, only local families.

Falak Naz, 28 was visibly shaken. “I am totally helpless now. I built a small house with a lot of effort. It is destroyed. How will I repair it? Will there be any government help? These questions keep haunting my mind,” he said.

Source: SGGP

Survivors lash out after Pakistan floods kill 1,100

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2010 at 11:21 am

Survivors crammed into inadequate shelters expressed anger over inaction from the Pakistani government on Monday as the death toll from the country’s worst floods in generations topped 1,100.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pledged extra aid of up to 10 million dollars to help in the crisis, which local officials say has affected more than 1.5 million people in Pakistan’s northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“I had built a two-room house on the outskirts of Peshawar with my hard-earned money but I lost it in the floods,” said labourer Ejaz Khan, one of several hundred people who demonstrated in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

“The government is not helping us… the school building where I sheltered is packed with people, with no adequate arrangement for food and medicine,” the 53-year-old told AFP.

 A Pakistani flood-affected family rest in a makeshift camp in Mardan.

The floods and landslides triggered by monsoon rains capped a devastating week in Pakistan, where 152 people were killed when an Airblue passenger jet slammed into hills overlooking the capital in the country’s worst plane crash.

Ban said he was “deeply saddened” by the losses incurred in the worst floods in Pakistan for 80 years, reiterating a full commitment to “meeting the humanitarian needs” of those affected.

Pakistani television footage and photographs taken from helicopters showed people clinging to the walls and rooftops of damaged houses as water rushed through villages, with waterborne diseases emerging as a threat to survivors.

Thousands of homes and vast swathes of farmland have been destroyed in a region of Pakistan reeling from years of extremist bloodshed.

“The floods have killed more than 1,100 people in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and affected over 1.5 million,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the northwest province’s information minister.

“We are receiving information about the loss of life and property caused by the floods all over the province,” he told AFP, adding that he feared the death toll could rise.

A senior official at the provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) confirmed the toll.

Hussain said more than 3,700 homes had been swept away and the number of people made homeless was mounting.

Hundreds of survivors sought shelter in schools in Peshawar, the main city in northwest Pakistan, and in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, after escaping the floods with children on their backs.

Pakistan’s meterological office said the northwest had been hit by an “unprecedented” 312 millimetres (12 inches) of rain in 36 hours.

The US government announced an initial 10-million-dollar aid pledge and has rushed helicopters and boats to Pakistan.

China, which has also been hit by severe flooding, announced a 10 million yuan (1.5 million dollar) donation, according to the official Xinhua news agency, which cited a government website.

Hussain said rescue teams were trying to reach 1,500 tourists stranded in Swat district, the scene of a major anti-Taliban military offensive last year.

“We are also getting confirmation of reports about an outbreak of cholera in some areas of Swat,” he said.

The Pakistan Air Force said it had airlifted more than 500 stranded people, including six foreigners, as part of relief operations and was carrying out reconnaissance missions to assess the damage to infrastructure.

President Asif Ali Zardari is due in Paris Monday for a two-day visit, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner expressed France’s “solidarity” with Pakistan in the face of the floods.

Floods also ravaged parts of Afghanistan, killing at least 65 people and affecting more than 1,000 families, officials said.

Source: SGGP