Pakistanis decry weak flood relief efforts

Frustrated victims of Pakistan's massive flooding rail against anemic government efforts to help millions of displaced people.

Number affected by floods exceeds tsunami, Haiti and Kashmir quakes: UN

A Pakistani police officer threatens flood victims with a baton as they try to loot donated food from a bus in Azakhel near Nowshera, Pakistan, on Sunday. ((Anjum Naveed/Associated Press))
The number of people suffering from massive floods in Pakistan exceeds 13 million — more than the combined total of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the United Nations said Monday.

The death toll in each of the earlier three disasters was much higher than the 1,500 people killed in the floods that first hit Pakistan two weeks ago. But the UN estimates 13.8 million people in Pakistan have been affected — at least two million more than the other disasters combined.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said people are considered "affected" by the floods if they will need some form of assistance to recover, either short-term humanitarian aid or longer-term reconstruction help.

The comparison with other disasters helps frame the scale of the crisis, which Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Monday was the worst in Pakistani history.

He appealed for more help from the international community as the World Food Program said at least four million people will need food assistance across Pakistan for the next three months at a cost of nearly $100 million US.

Widespread anger

Frustrated victims of the flooding railed Monday against anemic government relief efforts for the millions who have been displaced.

Rising national anger has been directed at an already unpopular government, which has deployed thousands of soldiers to save victims and deliver meals but been overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

The government's struggle to cope with the disaster prompted the international community to donate tens of millions and providing relief supplies.

Manzoor Ahmed, 25, was one of thousands who fled their homes in Sindh province in the south, which was first inundated several days ago.

"It would have been better if we had died in the floods as our current miserable life is much more painful," said Ahmed, who spent the night shivering in the rain after he fled with his family from the town of Shikarpur.

A family fleeing flood waters takes refuge on higher ground in Sukkur, in Pakistan's Sindh province, on Monday. ((Akhtar Soomro/Reuters))
Thousands of Pakistanis in the neighbouring districts of Shikarpur and Sukkur camped out on roads, bridges and railway tracks — any dry ground they could find — often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and perhaps a plastic sheet to keep off the rain.

"I have no utensils, I have no food for my children, I have no money," said Hora Mai, 40, sitting on a rain-soaked road in Sukkur along with hundreds of other people. "We were able to escape the flood waters, but hunger may kill us."

Inamullah Dhareejo, a senior government official in Sukkur, said authorities were working to set up relief camps in the district and deliver food to flood victims.

But an Associated Press reporter who travelled widely through the worst-hit areas in Sindh over the past three days saw no sign of relief camps or government assistance.

Kashmir death toll rises

Rescuers in mountainous Indian-controlled Kashmir, meanwhile, raced to rescue dozens of stranded foreign trekkers and find 500 people still missing in flash floods.

Heavy rains continue to raise water levels in swollen rivers, displacing thousands of additional people every day.

The death toll in Kashmir rose to 140 with the recovery of eight more bodies overnight, police said Monday.

The dead included five foreigners, but their nationalities were not immediately known.

Farther east, thousands of army, police and paramilitary soldiers continued clearing roads to reach isolated villages in the Ladakh region cut off by Friday's powerful thunderstorms.

The efforts were hampered by overnight rains, said army spokesman Lt. Col. J.S. Brar.