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Zardari makes first visit to flood-hit area

media Villager Ali Mardan leads his donkeys through floodwaters in the village … Reuters

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday paid his first visit to a flood-hit area, a fortnight after the downpour that has devastated the country began. Zardari went to the city of Sukkur, close to the worst-affected parts of the southern province of Sindh.

Zardari returned to Pakistan two days ago after a tour of France and Britain, which has excited widespread criticism at home.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

“He is going for a briefing on the damage and on protection measures and relief and rehabilitation measures,” said presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar.

Zardari met provincial government officials and visited a relief camp, where he met flood survivors.

Having ravaged the north-west, waters receded Thursday but flood warnings remain in place in Sindh and Punjab provinces. The floods are expected to reach their peak in Sukkur Thursday but officials have warned that there could be fresh flooding within days.

Ahsan Iqbal, an opposition MP and member of the Pakistan Muslim League, said the country is facing into a difficult period.

"There's going to be a monumental task of first providing relief to the flood-affected, as well as the rehabilitation of the people and of the infrastructure," he told RFI. 

Pakistan Muslim League MP Ahsan Iqbal 12/08/2010 - by Salil Sarkar Listen

"The damage is bigger than the financial and administrative capacity of the provincial or the federal government can cope with. Pakistan is mobilising all its resources. The development budget has been cut down and the funds are being diverted to relief and rehabilitation work.

"And this comes at a time when Pakistan was at a very critical phase in terms of its fight against extremism, so this makes the whole situation very complex and very challenging."

Relief efforts have now turned to an estimated two million people who require shelter after fleeing flood-hit areas. Tents have sprung up along main roads and around major towns.

Officials and farmers' groups estimate the disaster has cost:

  • About 500,000 tonnes of wheat
  • About two million bales of cotton
  • About 500,000 tonnes of sugar

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