Pakistan Steps Up Rescue After Flash Floods Kill 313

Pakistani villagers pile up their rescued belongings from houses flooded by heavy rain fall in Nowshera near Peshawar, Pakistan on Thursday, July 29, 2010. (Getty Images)

(Updates death toll in first paragraph.)

July 30 (KATAKAMI / Bloomberg) — Pakistan stepped up rescue efforts after flash floods and heavy rains in the northwest killed 313 people and left thousands stranded in the region’s worst storms. Communication systems collapsed.

“The relief efforts of everyone combined is only five percent of what’s required,” Mujahid Khan, a spokesman for the Edhi Rescue Service, said by telephone from Peshawar today. “We can see people drowning but we can’t go into the water because of its high pressure.”

The death toll is on top of the 152 people who died when a plane crashed in heavy rains near the capital two days ago. Homes and bridges collapsed in the rain, live electric wires fell into the water and families were swept away in the floods.

“The infrastructure of this province was already destroyed by terrorism,” Mian Iftikhar Hussain, provincial information minister, said in a televised news conference from Peshawar yesterday. “Whatever was left, was finished off by these floods. There are chances of further flooding and more damage.” He appealed for tents, boats and food for those left homeless and asked people to evacuate affected towns and cities.

Army Troops

Army troops equipped with life jackets, motorboats and heavy rafts were called in to help move families to safe locations, the military said in a statement on its website yesterday. At least 400,000 people were stranded in cities and villages across the province.

Pakistani television channels showed images of submerged huts, collapsed bridges and people grabbing onto wreckage on flooded roads to keep from being swept away by the water.

“All the houses in my village have been destroyed and now it’s simply a fight for survival for us,” Mehmood Khan, a tribal elder, said by telephone from Wana, South Waziristan. “Food supplies have started to run out. We haven’t eaten in 48 hours and the scant food supplies we saved for women and children may not last long.”

The districts of Peshawar, Swat, Nowshera, Lower Dir and Charsadda were worst affected, according to the government.

The water level in the River Swat crossed 250,000 cusecs yesterday, the highest since 1929, according to the National Disaster Management Agency in Islamabad. Of 55 Chinese engineers trapped in the Kohistan district, 46 were rescued, it said.

The first spell of the monsoon started on July 22 and affected the western province of Baluchistan, the disaster authority said. (*)

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