Troops and relief workers are struggling to provide food and medicine to victims of floods that have already killed over 1,100. Tens of thousands are homeless and there is fear that waterborne diseases could break out.
Heavy monsoon rains have triggered the worst flash floods in decades
Whole villages in northwest Pakistan are under water. Countless bridges and roads have been destroyed. Phone lines are down and there is little electricity. Up to a million people are in need of urgent aid.
People walk over a makeshift bridge to dryer ground
Many flood victims are becoming increasingly impatient and angry. "Our houses are destroyed," said one man. "Some people have also died. There are still people under water and under houses and there is no help from anyone - from the army, the navy or the air force."
Another man agreed that there had not been enough support "from the government. No relief, no aid, no ships – nothing! We are on our own and there is no help from the government."
30,000 troops deployed to flooded region
The Pakistani authorities have disputed this accusation, saying that 28,000 people have already been rescued. 30,000 soldiers have been deployed to the flooded region, they argue, and have also been ordered to share their rations with those who need it.
The air force has been dropping supplies, such as fresh drinking water, where people are stranded. Army spokesman General Athar Abbas said that the main problem was access and that "the level of desperation” was so widespread that it was “quite possible that there have been deaths that have not been reported."
Many have lost all their possessions
Jaffar Shah, a politician in Swat, said the situation was critical. "The entire main road from Behrain to Kalam is totally damaged and destroyed. People are in deep trouble - forty thousand local residents and two to three thousand tourists are all stuck here."
International community pledges millions in emergency aid
The international community promised to help on Monday, pledging millions in emergency aid. Elizabeth H. Rood, the US Consul General in Peshawar, said on Sunday that "62,000 ready-to-eat halal meals for the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Disaster Management Authorities had been brought in to distribute to people and more of these meals are on the way."
However, a UN spokesman said it was not easy to bring relief to the flood victims. "More than 30,000 people are still stranded on rooftops, on hilltops, and have to be brought to safer ground. Then we need urgently to bring drinking water, food, emergency shelter to these people. We have items available, we have stocks here, but access – that's the main problem."
With more heavy monsoon rain predicted, officials fear the problem could get worse, and that the death toll could rise to over 1,500. Medical teams have been dispatched to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases, especially cholera.
Author: Anne Thomas
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein