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Asia-Pacific

Zardari Europe trip under fire, as floods affect 3.2 million

media Flood vicitims in Nowshera Reuters

Pakistan issued fresh flood warnings on Tuesday, as disease broke out among 3.2 million people hit by the worst floods in generations. Many claim that government rescue efforts are inadequate, while President Asif Ali Zardari’s trip to Europe has sparked protests.

Anger is growing to boiling point among survivors, mainly in the north-west of the country, who complain they have been abandoned by the government after floods that have left up to 1,500 people dead.

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Interview: Correspondent Rana Jawad in Islamabad 03/08/2010 - by Philip Turle Listen

"This is an additional burden for the government, which is already struggling to cope with the deteriorating law and order situation and an escalating war against terrorism, especially in the north-west,” says Islamabad correspondent Rana Jawad.

"The government does not seem to have the capacity or enough logistics to meet the needs of these stranded people."

The United Nations says clean drinking water and sanitation are urgently needed to stop diseases spreading after Pakistan's worst floods in 80 years.

Aid workers, the government and the military say they are battling to reach affected communities, but anger was growing among survivors, as President Asif Ali Zardari pressed on with a visit to France and the UK.

"This is a serious blow to President Zardari's credibility,” says Jawad. “Many people are asking why, when the country is suffering from a major natural disaster, the head of state is not present to make sure the emegency services deliver emergency aid to people.”

The fact that Zardari is visiting Britain, whose prime minister, David Cameron, has slammed Pakistan as a country which is exporting terrorism, has added to the discontent, with demonstrations taking place in several towns.

“Many people in Pakistan believe the president should not have left the country when it was affected by floods for Britain where the prime minister has openly condemned Pakistan," Jawad says.

Before leaving for Britain, Zardari on Tuesday visited an old French country manor owned by the family of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto.

The 16th-century Château de le Reine Blanche is in the hamlet of Mesnil-Lieubray, near the city of Rouen, in Normandy.

Back home, the disaster could become worse.

Authorities in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa issued a warning to people living around Warsak Dam, one of the country's most vital dams and lying outside the city of Peshawar.

Pakistan's meteorological service forecast widespread rain in the southern province of Sindh, Punjab in the centre, Pakistani-held Kashmir, the north-west and south-western Baluchistan during the next three days.

Flash flooding is expected in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Baluchistan, it warned, with heavy thunderstorms in Islamabad.

The local government in Khyber Pakhtunkwa has said up to 1,500 people have died. The UN Children's Fund (Unicef) put the figure at 1,400, although there are fears the toll could rise further.

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