Pakistan rescues 2,000 from floods as UN warns of more child deaths to come
3 million people affected by ‘unprecedented’ climate change catastrophe
Pakistan's armed forces have rescued 2,000 more people stranded by rising floodwaters, officials said on Friday, in a disaster blamed on climate change that has swamped about a third of the South Asian nation and is still growing.
Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in northern mountains brought floods that have killed at least 1,208 people, including 416 children, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Planes carrying fresh supplies are surging across a humanitarian air bridge to flood-ravaged Pakistan as the death toll surges and thousands of people are left at risk of disease and homelessness.
The ninth flight from the United Arab Emirates and the first from Uzbekistan were the latest to land in Islamabad overnight as a military-backed rescue operation elsewhere in the country worked to help the roughly three million people affected by the disaster.
Two more planes from U.A.E and Qatar with aid will arrive in Pakistan later Friday, and a Turkish train carrying relief goods for flood victims was on its way to the impoverished country, according to Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.
PHOTOS | Life in Pakistan during flooding:
Risk of many child deaths
The United Nations has appealed for $160 million in aid to help tackle what it said was an "unprecedented climate catastrophe" as Pakistan's navy has fanned out inland to carry out relief operations in areas that resemble a sea.
The UN children's agency UNICEF said on Friday many more children could die from disease.
"There is now a high risk of water-borne, deadly diseases spreading rapidly — diarrhea, cholera, dengue, malaria," UNICEF Pakistan representative Abdullah Fadil told a Geneva press briefing.
"There is therefore a risk of many more child deaths," he said.
In the Dadu district of Sindh, one of the worst-affected provinces, several villages were under water as deep as 3.35 metres, according to Bashir Khan, a local resident who is in contact with people remaining in the area.
"My house is under water, I had left my place four days ago with my family," Khan told Reuters.
In neighbouring Mehar, residents were constructing a dike in an attempt to prevent floodwaters from entering the town, he said.
The navy airlifted more than 150 people from villages in Dadu on Thursday, it said in a statement.
On Friday, the military said it had evacuated about 50,000 people, including 1,000 by air, since rescue efforts began.
"During the last 24 hours, 1,991 stranded individuals have been evacuated," the armed forces said in a statement, adding that nearly 163 tonnes of relief supplies had also been delivered to those affected by flooding.
Several humanitarian relief flights are set to arrive on Friday from Middle Eastern nations such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan's foreign office said.
Weather officials predict more rains and flash flooding in the month of September, with southern regions bracing for a surge of water from the Indus river.
Sindh has asked relief camps to deploy additional female doctors and medical officers to ensure adequate care as more pregnant women and young mothers are displaced by the waters.
Pakistan received nearly 190 per cent more rain than its 30-year average in the quarter from June to August, totalling 390.7 mm.
Food security concerns
The Pakistan country director for the UN World Food Programme Chris Kaye said the floods were also likely to disrupt relief work in neighbouring Afghanistan, given the country's role as a key transit route.
"The floods in Pakistan are going to be a huge dent in that capability," he said.
"We are becoming very concerned about overall food security [in the region]."
A Turkish delegation headed by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to convey his condolences to him over damages caused by floods.
Multiple officials blamed the unusual monsoon and flooding on climate change, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who earlier this week called on the world to stop "sleepwalking" through the deadly crisis.
Guterres will visit Pakistan on Sept. 9 to tour flood-hit areas and meet with officials. In a statement Friday, the UN refugee agency said although the outcome of Tuesday's funding appeal from the UN was "very encouraging," more help is needed.
With files from The Associated Press, Munir Ahmed