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A month on, people still flee homes

Pakistani authorities were Sunday trying to protect another town from floodwaters in southern Sindh province, as the nation continues to grapple with its worst natural disaster in living memory.


A month after monsoons caused devastating floods throughout the country, submerging an area the size of England, eight million people remain dependent on handouts for their survival, which many say are too slow coming.

Surging floodwaters continue to threaten towns in southern Sindh, where 19 of its 23 districts have been deluged and more than one million people displaced.

Authorities are trying to protect Johi, a town threatened by ravaging floodwaters, the district’s administration chief Iqbal Memon told AFP.

The town, 315 kilometres north of Karachi, has a population of 60,000 and officials fear that floodwaters will breach surrounding embankments unless they are quickly strengthened.

“The floodwaters are fast heading towards Johi town after inundating most parts of Khairpur Nathan Shah town and Mehar town and several surrounding villages in Dadu district,” Memon said.

“We are right now employing all available means to strengthen the protective embankments around Johi, but the threat still remains.”

Population flees

About 70 per cent of the town’s population had already fled to safer areas, Memon said.

He estimated that 90 per cent of the people of Khairpur Nathan Shah, Mehar town and surrounding villages, which had a joint population of about 300,000, had fled to nearby towns spared by floods.

“However, a few thousand people who remain stranded in Khairpur Nathan Shah, Mehar town and surrounding villages are being evacuated to safety by naval boats and helicopters,” he said.

Usman Qureshi, a resident of a small village near Khairpur Nathan Shah, said he had been stranded with at least 10 other villagers since Saturday after water inundated the area.

“We immediately need help and food,” he told AFP by mobile phone after taking shelter at the lone two-storey building in the village.

“We beg you to please contact rescuers and ask them to evacuate us.”

Meanwhile, troops rescued 300 people from the flooded Jati town and 47 from Khairpur Nathan Shah to safer places, the military said in a statement.

Anger at government, slow pace of aid

While the international community has donated $US700 million ($A769 million), domestic anger has been mounting against the widely unpopular civilian government, which has come under fire for its handling of the crisis.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday told the lower house of the federal parliament that relief efforts would be extended to six months.

Gilani estimated that the early recovery phase would be completed by December 30, while damage and need assessment by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank would be completed by September 30.

The World Bank has raised flood aid to Pakistan to $US1 billion ($A1.1 billion), while the International Monetary Fund has approved $US450 million ($A494.42 million) in emergency financing to help the nation cope.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference on Thursday appealed to Muslims everywhere to direct their zakat tithes – donations required under Islam – to relief for Pakistan, rather than leave Pakistanis “alone to their fate”.

However, the United Nations has warned that the slow pace of aid pledges could impede relief operations and says Pakistan faces a triple threat to food supplies with seeds, crops and incomes hit.

The floods have ruined 3.6 million hectares of rich farmland, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said farmers urgently needed seeds to plant for next year’s crops.

Gilani warned on Wednesday that the country faced inflation of up to 20 per cent and slower growth because of the devastating floods, which wiped out crops and killed 1760 people.

Disaster officials have said that number of deaths will likely rise “significantly” when the missing are accounted for.