Pakistan flood death toll exceeds 1,000
deaths of Widespread floods in Pakistan surpassed 1,000 since mid-June, officials said Sunday, as the country’s climate minister described the deadly monsoon season as “a serious climate catastrophe.”
Flash floods from the heavy rains washed away villages and crops as soldiers and rescue workers evacuated stranded residents to the safety of relief camps and brought food to thousands of displaced Pakistanis.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority reported that the death toll since the start of the monsoon season this year reached 1,061 people earlier than normal – in mid-June – after new deaths were reported in various provinces.
Sherry Rehman, a Pakistani senator and the country’s top climate chief, said in a video posted to Twitter that Pakistan is experiencing a “major climate disaster, one of the worst of the decade.”
“We are right now at zero on the frontline of extreme weather events, in a relentless cascade of heatwaves, wildfires, flash floods, multiple glacial lake outbursts, flooding and now the decade’s monster monsoon is doing nothing – stopping chaos across the country,” she said The on-camera statement was retweeted by the country’s ambassador to the European Union.
Overnight, the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was hit by flooding from the Swat River, where tens of thousands of people – particularly in Charsadda and Nowshehra districts – were evacuated from their homes to relief camps set up in government buildings. Many have also taken shelter at roadsides, said Kamran Bangash, a provincial government spokesman.
According to Bangash, about 180,000 people were evacuated from Charsadda and 150,000 from the villages in Nowshehra district.
Khaista Rehman, 55, no relative of the climate minister, took shelter with his wife and three children on the edge of the Islamabad-Peshawar highway after his home in Charsadda was flooded overnight.
“Thank God we’re safe from the flooded area pretty high up that road now,” he said. “Our crops are gone and our home is destroyed, but I am grateful to Allah that we are alive and I will start life anew with my sons.”
The unprecedented monsoon season has affected all four provinces of the country. Nearly 300,000 homes were destroyed, numerous roads were made impassable and power outages were widespread, affecting millions of people.
Pope Francis said Sunday he wanted to reassure his “closeness to the people of Pakistan who have been hit by catastrophic floods.” During a pilgrimage to the Italian city of L’Aquila, which was hit by a deadly earthquake in 2009, Pope Francis said he prays “for the many victims, for the injured and for the evacuees, and for international solidarity to be swift and generous.”
Rehman told Turkey’s TRT World news agency that when the rains subside, “we could have a good quarter or a third of Pakistan under water.”
“This is a global crisis and of course we need better planning and sustainable development on the ground. … We need climate-resilient crops and structures,” she said.
In May, Rehman told BBC Newshour that both the north and south of the country were experiencing extreme weather events due to rising temperatures. “So in the north right now we are experiencing what is known as glacial lake flooding, which we have a lot of because Pakistan is home to the highest number of glaciers outside of the polar region.”
The government has dispatched soldiers to help civilian authorities with rescue and relief operations across the country. The Pakistan Army also said in a statement it had airlifted 22 tourists trapped in a valley in the north of the country to safety.
Prime Minister Shabaz Sharif visited flood victims in the Baluchistan city of Jafferabad. He promised that the government would provide housing for all those who lost their homes.