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Anger Grows As Pakistan Flood Victims Struggle Amid Massive Devastation

  • RFE/RL

Pakistanis use logs and ropes to clamber on a bridge with some of its sections swept away by floodwaters in Charsada, Pakistan on August 1.

Pakistanis use logs and ropes to clamber on a bridge with some of its sections swept away by floodwaters in Charsada, Pakistan on August 1.

The unprecedented heavy rain has eased, but the misery goes on for an estimated 1 million people in northwestern Pakistan affected by the worst flooding the country has seen since independence.

More than 1,100 people are known dead and the toll is expected to rise when rescue teams reach thousands of people still without help days after the monsoon floods hit the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The International Comittee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today that up to 2.5 million people were affected by the flooding. The ICRC said that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has so far provided food parcels for over 20,000 individuals, distributed by the Pakistan Red Crescent Society.

Survivors are crammed into inadequate shelters after their villages were wiped out by raging waters, and many of them are expressing anger about the apparent inaction of Pakistan's government in response to their plight.

One such survivor is Omar Ali, a resident of Matta in the Swat Valley, who tells RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that the government is doing nothing.

"The Matta area is cut off from all sides. People have been trapped for the past five to six days and diseases are spreading. They have no food and the government so far has not taken any steps," he says.

"You can see over there, the people are coming in private boats. I have seen three boats, carrying women and children, overturned in the river.”

Reporters on the scene say the authorities have deployed thousands of soldiers and civil rescue workers in the crisis area, but that the scale of the devastation is so great that their efforts appear inadequate.

"The destruction in Shangla and Swat is worth seeing. May God forgive me, but the situation is like doomsday," the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Amir Haidar Hoti, told Radio Mashaal after touring some of the worst-hit areas by helicopter today.

"Bridges, roads, houses, hotels, everything is ruined," Hoti said. "And I think we have been taken back almost 50 to 60 years. What we have built over those years has been destroyed within a day.

In addition, crops have been destroyed, animals drowned, and vehicles and bridges washed away.

Fear Of Disease

Mian Iftikhar Husain, the provincial information minister, has sounded a warning about a new danger stalking the land: cholera. He says cholera has already been confirmed in some areas.

An aid official, Shaharyar Bangash of the World Vision group, says there is now a real danger of the spread of water-borne diseases like diarrhea, asthma, and skin allergies, as well as cholera.

Among the areas worst hit is the Swat Valley, where normal life has already been severely dislocated by last summer's heavy fighting between Pakistani Army soldiers and Taliban Islamic militants.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he is "deeply saddened" by the tragedy in Pakistan and promised aid of up to $10 million to help the suffering population.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States also is sending equipment and aid of about $10 million as an initial commitment.

In Peshawar, U.S. Consul-General Elizabeth Rood said on August 1 that food packages were the first items to arrive.

"Today, we are bringing in, through the United States military, 62,000 halal meals, ready to eat," Rood said. "These are prepared meals that can be easily consumed. More of these meals are on the way."

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is coordinating the rushed delivery of helicopters, boats, prefabricated bridges, mobile water-treatment units, and emergency food supplies.

China and Canada are also sending aid.

with agency reports