Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pakistan Floods Forecast to Hit Sindh Today; Millions Stranded

Pakistan Floods Forecast to Hit Sindh Today; Millions Stranded
August 05, 2010, 2:38 AM EDT

By Khurrum Anis and Anwar Shakir

Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan’s deadliest floods in eight decades are forecast to hit the Southern province of Sindh today, after causing devastation in the country’s three other regions and leaving more than three million people stranded.

Water flow in the Indus River is expected to reach 1 million cubic feet per second, 10 times the norm, by tonight, Khair Mohammed Kalwar, director of operations at the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, said by telephone from Karachi. Nineteen of the 23 Sindh districts will be affected, he said.

The floods, which swept through villages and farmland in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last week, and then inundated Punjab, are the worst to hit Pakistan in 80 years, according to Unicef. More than 1,500 people died in the country’s northwest.

The area most at risk in Sindh lies in between the cities of Sukkur and Thatta, which are about 340 kilometers (210 miles) apart and where one million people in 2,000 villages may be affected, Kalwar said. The army has been deployed to help evacuate people.

Widespread monsoon rains are forecast in Sindh over the next two days, the weather office said in a statement on its web site.

Floodwaters demolished homes and bridges and swept away major roads across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab and crops across the nation were damaged. The floods first struck the western province of Baluchistan on July 22.

At least 1.8 million people urgently need regular food supplies, Amjad Jamal, a spokesman for the United Nations World Food Programme said by telephone from Peshawar today.

Crops Damaged

More than 1,000 villages in Punjab were flooded and more than 1 million acres of crops were damaged, Rizwan Ullah, director general of the Crisis Management Cell, said by telephone from Lahore. Communication networks have been disrupted and ground access is limited in the northwest because highways and roads have been destroyed, according to Unicef.

Children have been separated from their families or lost parents in the northwest, Save the Children said in a statement yesterday. Half the households have no remaining food supplies and 45 percent of communities are drinking contaminated water from rivers, ponds and lakes, it said.

Pakistani television networks showed survivors clinging to trees or debris in muddy, raging mountain rivers. Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, a two-time prime minister, criticized President Asif Ali Zardari for pursuing a trip to France and the U.K. this week.

--With assistance by Farhan Sharif in Karachi. Editors: Naween A. Mangi

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