United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said the Pakistan flooding is the worst natural disaster he has ever seen - as more heavy rain heads towards the worst-hit areas, reports Geo
With the first case of cholera reported, Ban has also urged foreign donors to speed up aid to the country.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said as many as 300,000 people may contract cholera and up to seven million will suffer from diarrhoea.
Up to 1,600 people have died in the disaster and around 20 million have been left homeless.
After pledging a further $10m from the UN's central emergency response fund, Ban said: "This has been a heart-wrenching day - I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed.
In the past I have witnessed many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this.
"I am here... to share my sympathy and solidarity of the United Nations together with the people and government of Pakistan at this time of trial.
"I am here also to urge the world community to speed up their assistance to Pakistan.
"Waves of flood must be met with waves of support from the world."
So far, only one case of cholera has been confirmed by the UN, but other cases are suspected among those with diarrhoea.
Mark Ward, acting director of the US department for foreign disaster assistance, said cholera was "unavoidable" - but could be controlled.
He praised a system set up by the WHO to quickly detect any cases of the disease or other waterborne illnesses common after flooding.
"The good news is that we know where it is and we can get resources in there to help because of the disease early warning system," he said.
"When you are dealing with this much water and that many people, it (cholera) is almost unavoidable. I think we can control this."
Cholera, a bacterial intestinal infection typically spread through contaminated water, causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration and can be fatal.
Fresh flood waves have swelled the River Indus, threatening nearby cities, towns and villages in southern Sindh province, said senior meteorologist Mohammed Ajmal Shad.
Authorities are trying to evacuate or warn people in Jacobabad, Hyderabad, Thatta, Ghotki, Larkana and other areas in Sindh province that so far have been spared floods.
Meanwhile, more American helicopters have joined food aid work, with the US assigning aircraft from the USS Peleliu in the Arabian Sea.
And France has announced it will send a plane loaded with 60 tons of aid to the region.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world and Pakistan faced a "defining moment," while Britain and the United States raised their combined aid contributions to 250 million dollars.
"I stand before you as the voice of 20 million Pakistanis devastated by the floods," Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the UN General Assembly's emergency fund-raising session in New York.
"The massive upheaval caused by the floods and the economic losses suffered by the millions of Pakistanis must be addressed urgently. We cannot allow this catastrophe to become an opportunity for the terrorists."
Although weather forecasters say the monsoon systems are easing off and water levels receding, the fallout from three weeks of devastating floods that have left nearly 1,500 people dead is likely to last for years.
The nuclear-armed nation of 167 million is a top US foreign policy priority due to the threat posed by Islamist extremists, as Washington tries to bring an end to the nine-year war against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.
In a poignant video message, Clinton urged Americans and the world to reach deep into their pockets for the crucial war on terror ally, saying: "This is a defining moment -- not only for Pakistan, but for all of us.
"The enormity of this crisis is hard to fathom, the rain continues to fall, and the extent of the devastation is still difficult to gauge.
"In surveying the lives and landscape affected by this disaster, we see brothers and sisters; mothers and fathers; daughters and sons. We see 20 million members of the human family in desperate need of help."
Clinton doubled US aid from 90 million dollars to 150 million dollars, while Britain said it planned to double its contribution to more than 64 million pounds (99 million dollars).
"I have come to New York directly from Pakistan, where I saw the dire need for more help," British Development Secretary Andrew Mitchells told the General Assembly. "It is deeply depressing that the international community is only now waking up to the true scale of this disaster."
Clinton announced that the State Department had set up a Pakistan Relief Fund and urged Americans to donate, either online or by texting F-L-O-O-D to a special cell phone number.
"Every dollar makes a difference," she said. "Five dollars can buy 50 high energy bars providing much needed nutrition; 10 dollars can provide a child or mother with a blanket; and about 40 dollars can buy material to shelter a family of four."
The US pointman on Pakistan called on China to join the global effort, saying billions of dollars would be needed for the country's reconstruction.
"I think the Chinese should step up to the plate," Richard Holbrooke told reporters at an Asia Society event before the UN meeting.
More than 40 speakers were scheduled to take the floor of the General Assembly to pledge increased assistance.
Opening the special session, UN chief Ban Ki-moon described the disaster as "one of the greatest tests of global solidarity" and said Pakistan was facing a "slow-motion tsunami."
Qureshi said the economic damage was at least 43 billion dollars and warned that failure to assist, "could undermine the hard won gains made by the government in our difficult and painful war against terrorism."
The General Assembly adopted a resolution urging the international community to help Pakistan recover, as foreign donors belatedly rallied in support of the embattled Muslim nation.
The Asian Development Bank said it would provide two billion dollars to repair roads, bridges, power lines, homes, schools, medical facilities and farm structures, and the World Bank has promised to lend 900 million dollars.
At least six million flood survivors in desperate need of food, shelter and clean drinking water require humanitarian assistance to survive, as concerns grow over potential cholera, typhoid and hepatitis outbreaks.
The floods wiped out villages, farmland and infrastructure, and UN aid coordination body OCHA said more than 650,000 homeless families were still without basic shelter.
In Islamabad, US Senator John Kerry and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari urged the world to act swiftly to stop extremists exploiting the country's devastating floods and to prevent social unrest.
Pakistani flood victim Achar has taken refuge on what villagers say was the seat of ancient kings.
Floods that began three weeks ago with torrential monsoon rain over the upper Indus river basin have forced more than 4 million people from their homes. Most are living in wretched conditions beside roads, many sleeping in the open with little food and no clean water.
Achar, a gaunt, elderly man, is camped out with his family on a mound in the ancient city of Amri, on the flooded plains of the southern province of Sindh.
He seems content enough on his island.
“There are no shady places on the road and here it's safe, it's high up,” said Achar, who has only one name, and is living with his extended family of 16 people.
Tufts of henna-dyed hair, somewhere between orange and red, stuck out from beneath his white skull cap. His cropped beard was the same colour.
Amri, west of the Indus, dates from about 3000 BC.
The Indus basin was believed to have been the cradle of civilization in South Asia and Amri was one of its earliest known settlements, older than Moen Jo Daro, the main city of the Indus civilization and one of Pakistan's most important archaeological sites. Moen Jo Daro, also in Sindh, has not been flooded.
The sandy soil of Amri's hillock is littered with shards of pottery the colour of red brick. Larger pieces stuck out of steep, eroded slopes.
Every time there's heavy rain, more pieces of pottery are washed out of the ground on the hill where kings once lived, villagers said.
“Once it was a city and these pots were common,” Achar said. “Sometimes we find pieces with glaze or patterns on them. It looks very old.”
He said he had never found anything of any value.
On the other side of a nearby road, which has not been cut off by the flood, a small museum surrounded by water houses artefacts from the site.
The deluge is still making its way across Sindh's flat farmland and stretches of semi-desert. The flood only hit Amri five days ago.
Villagers were warned of the advancing water and Achar said he was able to pack up his possessions and move to the top of the hill where he hacked down some bushes and strung up a large piece of white canvas.
Eight rope beds, pots, pans and bundles of clothes were crammed underneath the awning, along with several women and some children, taking shelter for a blazing midday sun.
Government relief workers had arrived on the road the previous day, across about 300 metres of water, and Achar was able to take a boat to collect supplies of rice, flour, lentils, sugar and tea. For drinking water, he pointed at the flood: “We're used to it,” he said.
From his lofty camp, Achar pointed out his collapsed mud-walled house. The thatch roofs of villagers' homes and farm buildings stuck out of the water.
In the other direction, beyond the flooded museum, only the tops of small trees could be seen above the flood until a distant wall of mountains rose, their high ridgeline barely visible in the glare.
Apart from the shards of pottery, there's no trace of the people who once lived in Amri, which was believed to have been destroyed in a great fire.
Thousands of years later, it's a great flood that threatens Pakistan's ancient land and its people. – Reuters
Labels: Flood economics, Floods 2010, Relief
posted by S A J Shirazi @ Friday, August 20, 2010,
Deb Sistrunk said...
I continue to pray for everyone impacted by the floods -- for those who have suffered losses and everyone involved in the aid efforts.
The ANP theory of drowning of Nowshera and Charsada has been proved wrong if KBD was built. Now is the time that we rise above our prejudices and consider construction of KBD or else let the people suffer for the narrow mindedness of our politicians.
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