Pakistan on Saturday made a desperate plea to the international community to ensure that their resolve to support the country remains undeterred, as the cataclysmic floods, similar to the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in the US in 2005, has killed over 1,200 people and displaced more than 33 million.
Pakistan is struggling to respond to the floods given its unprecedented magnitude, and is expected to add USD 10 billion worth of damages to the already teetering economy.
Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in northern mountains brought floods that have killed at least 1,265 people since June 14, with 57 casualties reported during the last 24 hours, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
The total number of people who have suffered injuries stands at 12,577, it said.
Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman called it the “monster monsoon of the decade.”
Addressing a press conference on Saturday at the National Flood Response and Coordination Centre alongside military officials, Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal said the federal government called on the international community to ensure that their resolve for support to Pakistan remains undeterred as the scale of the disaster warrants a major humanitarian response, Geo TV reported.
The press conference was held after the National Flood Response Coordination Centre held its first meeting to review flood response.
The Pakistan government has set up a nodal disaster agency, the National Flood Response Coordination Centre, to provide an institutional response to the devastating floods.
Following the high-level meeting, Pakistan’s civil and military officials said the federal government was doing everything it can to bring back normalcy in the country.
Due to internal displacement, more than 500,000 people are currently living in relief camps across Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Punjab provinces, the report said.
“Pakistan bore the brunt of 500 per cent more rainfall compared to a 30-year average,” the minister said.
“The scale of the calamity faced by Pakistan can be matched to the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in the US that rendered the world’s super power helpless,” Iqbal said.
Hurricane Katrina was a large and destructive hurricane that caused over 1,800 fatalities and USD 125 billion in damages in August 2005, in the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas in the US.
It was the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record to make landfall in the US.
Iqbal said that the government was focusing on the reconstruction of the communication and transport network after the floods.
“Two weeks back, 14 vital connectivity roads in Balochistan — on which the economy relies for its goods transport to and from other countries — were cut off,” he said.
“Today, 11 of those have been restored. At this moment only 3 important highways are blocked on which work is underway,” the minister noted.
He said out of 81 electricity grid stations that were flooded across the country, 69 had been restored.
Similarly, 758 out of 881 damaged feeders had been restored.
“Around 3,500 telecommunication towers in Sindh and Balochistan were disrupted during floods. All of these except 600 towers have been restored,” he said, adding that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority would fix the remaining ones within the next 48 hours.
Pakistan’s farmers are still counting their losses from the devastating floods that have put a third of the country under water, and wiped-out acres of fertile agricultural land.
Farmers rue that the natural calamity has put the country back by 50 years.
UN chief Antonio Guterres will arrive in Pakistan on September 9 for a solidarity visit and inspect flood-hit regions, after a USD 160 million emergency plan was launched by the UN and the Pakistan government to provide relief to millions of people living in flood relief camps.
On Saturday, a French aircraft carrying relief goods landed in Islamabad on Saturday and was received by Minister for National Health Services Abdul Qadir Patel.
This was followed by the ninth flight from the United Arab Emirates and the first from Uzbekistan.
The US has announced USD 30 million worth of aid for the flood victims earlier this week.
Meanwhile, two members of the US Congress, Sheila Jackson and Tom Suzy, were expected to arrive in Pakistan on Sunday to visit the flood-hit areas and meet officials.
Pakistan Army spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, who also attended the meeting, told the media that efforts were underway to rehabilitate the displaced.
“We are utilising all our resources to rehabilitate people in the flood-affected areas,” he said.
He said relief and coordination centres were set up by the Army in flood-hit areas and so far, more than 136 helicopter sorties were dispatched for evacuation purposes.
Iftikhar said over 150 medical and relief camps have been established in which free medical treatment and food are being given to the victims.
“We have also distributed tents and rations in huge quantities,” he said, adding that thousands of people stranded in several areas had been rescued.
He also said the Army has postponed the annual Defence Day ceremony on September 6 to show solidarity with the flood victims.
The NDMA chairman, Lt Gen Akhtar Nawaz, said the worst impact of climate change was visible in Pakistan, as the monsoon arrived nearly three months earlier.
“According to the Met office, this year 20 to 22 per cent above normal rainfall was affected but instead, we saw over 190 per cent cumulative rain in Pakistan,” he said.
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