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Asia-Pacific

Pakistan floods worse than 2004 tsunami says UN

media A family fleeing flood waters Photo: Reuters

The United Nations said Monday that massive floods in Pakistan had affected 13.8 million people and eclipsed the scale of the devastating 2004 tsunami.

The Pakistani government has confirmed 1,243 deaths so far.

Pakistan's meteorological office forecast only scattered rain in the next 24 hours and said the intensity of monsoon showers was lessening.

But with floods sweeping south, hundreds of thousands of people have fled to seek safety as heavy rains continued to lash the province of Sindh.

UN officials have appealed for relief efforts to be stepped up as anger grows among survivors faced with insufficient aid, hiked up food prices, and a president in absentia. Zardari has been in France and Britain, attracting huge criticism for not returning at a time of national disaster.

Fruit, vegetables and wheat are farmed in Pakistan's rich agricultural basin along the Indus River in the central province of Punjab and Sindh to the south, as well as in the plains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest – areas which have all been devastated by the flooding.

With no petrol in pumps and harvests ruined, the price of food in Pakistan is skyrocketing. Survivors find themselves existing on meagre handouts of food from local charities.

Spokesperson for Zadari Farhatullah Babar told RFI that relief and rehabilitation work “is gigantic, and cannot be undertaken without international support.”

The government said foreign donors including the United States have pledged 92.8 million dollars in aid, but on the ground Islamic charities with suspected extremist links have been far more visible in the relief effort.

Babar described Islamist relief as the “human face of the militants” adding that “militant organisations give the impression that they are supporting the people, they are providing the relief and rehabilitation, and that the government has failed. Thereby they try and wean away the people. They did the same thing in 2005 during the earthquake.”

In terms of international relief Barba said that whilst in Paris, Zadari and Sarkozy “agreed on a strategic dialogue between the two countries” in addition to the financial assistance pledged by France for the relief and rehabilitation of the flood victims. Sarkozy agreed to visit Pakistan by December this year.

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