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Asia-Pacific

Zardari returns as UN launches flood appeal

media Two-year-old Nihar Bibi sits on ground along with livestock after fleeing … Reuters

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari returned to his flood-hit country Tuesday, as the UN launched an appeal to 13.8 million people hit by the disaster. It is not yet clear whether Zardari will visit the affected areas.

Zardari has been widely criticised for his absence from the country during devastating floods.

The Pakistani TV station Geo News on Tuesday claimed that its offices in Karachi have been attacked by activists of President Asif Ali Zardari's People's Party. The protesters set fire to copies of the Daily Jang newspaper, which belongs to the same company, and chanted slogans in support of Zardari, The News, which is part of the same media group, reports.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

The UN says its appeal for help will concentrate on helping about six million people who need direct assistance to survive, officials say.

It adds that a Pakistani government estimate of 14 million people affected, includes both direct and indirect impact, including those who have lost their homes or are likely to suffer from crop losses.

"We will soon issue an ... appeal for several hundred million dollars to respond to immediate needs," UN chief Ban Ki-moon announced, stressing that medium- and long-term assistance "will be a major and protracted task".

Donors have already provided 38.2 million dollars (29.1 million euros) and pledged 90.9 million dollars (69.2 million euros).

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the disaster has now surpassed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Pakistani earthquake and Haiti’s earthquake earlier this year put together. The tsunami death toll hit 220,000, however, while the UN’s estimate of deaths from the floods is 1,600 so far.

Other news from the floods includes:

  • Parts of the Swat valley, Punjab and Sindh were still cut off Tuesday;
  • Residents of towns and cities in the south were warned to stay on alert, although water levels were beginning to drop at the Guddu barrage;
  • Forecasters forecast only scattered rain in the south for the next two days;
  • Weather cleared Tuesday, allowing Pakistani, US and Afghan helicopters to distribute relief and rescue people in the north-west;
  • Food prices are rising and are set to soar after destruction of crops, especially in the fertile Punjab and Sindh provinces;
  • Growth forecasts are to be revised downwards, especially because of the effect on agriculture which accounts for more than 21 per cent of GDP and employs 45 per cent of the workforce.
     
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