Pakistan’s PM says flood-hit areas look ‘like a sea’

Parts of Pakistan seemed “like a sea,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Wednesday, after visiting some of the flood-hit areas that cover as much as a third of the country, where 1,343 have died since mid-June.

As many as 33 million people out of a population of 220 million have been affected by the disaster. Hundreds of thousands have been made homeless by the floods, which officials estimate caused losses of at least $10 billion US.

“You wouldn’t believe the scale of destruction there,” Sharif said after a visit to the southern province of Sindh. “It is water everywhere as far as you could see. It is just like a sea.”

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Calls for aid

The Pakistani government, which has boosted cash handouts for flood victims, will buy 200,000 tents to house displaced families, he added.

Receding waters threaten a new challenge, in the form of water-borne infectious diseases, Sharif said.

“We will need trillions of rupees to cope with this calamity.”

The United Nations has called for $160 million US in aid to help the flood victims.

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Many of those affected are from Sindh, where Pakistan’s largest freshwater lake is dangerously close to bursting its banks, even after having been breached in an operation that displaced 100,000 people.

National disaster officials said eight children were among the dead in the last 24 hours. The floods were brought on by record monsoon rains and glacier melt in Pakistan’s northern mountains.

The raging waters have swept away 1.6 million houses, 5,735 km of transport links, 750,000 head of livestock and swamped more than 809,000 hectares of farmland.

Flood-affected people use a boat to cross a flooded area after heavy rains on the outskirts of Jacobabad in Pakistan’s Sindh province. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)

More rain forecast

Officials in Sindh expect the waters to recede in the next few days, said provincial government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab. “Our strategy right now is to be prepared for wheat cultivation as soon as the water recedes,” he added.

But with more rain expected in the coming month, the situation could worsen further, a top official of the United Nations’ refugee agency has warned.

Temporary housing is constructed for flood victims in Hyderabad, Pakistan. The World Health Organization estimates more than 6.4 million people need humanitarian support. (Pervez Masih/Associated Press)

Already, the World Health Organization has said more than 6.4 million people need humanitarian support in the flooded areas.

Pakistan has received nearly 190 per cent more rain than the 30-year average in July and August, totalling 391 millimetres, with Sindh getting 466 per cent more rain than the average.

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