Rescue teams struggle to reach 600,000 Pakistan flood victims

Record water levels were pressing down on a crucial flood barrier in Pakistan's Sindh province last night as monsoon rains showed no sign of easing – adding to the vast surge of water bearing down on towns and villages.

As officials said the amount of water coming down the Sukkur Barrage was already more than 150 per cent the maximum it was designed to withstand, the UN estimated that almost 14 million people were now feeling the impact of the floods. A UN spokesman, Maurizio Giuliano, told AP that, if so, the total affected would exceed the number hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir and the quake in Haiti combined.

So far, the death toll from the floods is around 1,500, but Pakistan's Prime Minister, Yousuf Gilani, said yesterday the disaster represented a bigger crisis than the 2005 Kashmir earthquake that killed nearly 80,000 people and the army's operation against the Taliban in the Swat Valley last spring that forced two million people from their homes.

"The magnitude of the tragedy is so immense that it is hard to assess," he said, while visiting the city of Multan. "Millions of people have suffered, and still there is more rain and further losses are feared. I appeal to the world to help us. We are doing what we can. The government has done everything possible but it is beyond our capacity – we are facing an extremely difficult situation."

Such comments will do little to ease the desperation of those caught up in the disaster, increasingly furious at what many consider a lacklustre response by the authorities. In particular, President Asif Ali Zardari, who is due to return to Pakistan imminently, has faced criticism for failing to postpone a foreign visit to help grapple with the humanitarian challenge created by the country's worst floods on record.

Even now, thousands of people remain stranded. Rescue workers said yesterday that they had still been unable to reach up to 600,000 people marooned in the Swat Valley, barely 100 miles from Islamabad, where aid groups are resorting to the use of donkeys to carry supplies. It is barely 15 months since hundreds of thousands of people fled the valley as troops moved in to oust Taliban fighters who had taken control of the former tourist haven.

Bad weather has grounded helicopters, among them US military choppers being flown on humanitarian missions. Elsewhere in the north-west, hillsides denuded of tree cover as a result of over-logging have started to slip and slide, triggering mud surges that have buried several dozen people.

While the high waters have started to recede in some parts of the north-west, the area worst struck by the flooding, elsewhere the crisis is deepening. In the provinces of Sindh and Punjab, hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated. One aid group yesterday said that half of all the emergency camps set up by the authorities had now been abandoned because waters continued to rise. "Most people are now on the road," said Rashid Javed, of Plan International. "Around 50 per cent of camps are no longer safe. People have had to evacuate in [an] emergency; now more than 80 per cent of them are living outside camps, on roadsides, high ground, wherever they can. It's extremely dangerous and distressing for all."

Amid the huge, bewildering devastation faced by so many, activists have voiced concern for some of Pakistan's rarest wildlife. With so much water flooding down the Indus, the Sindh Wildlife Department and some NGOs have warned that endangered blind Indus dolphins could slip in to canals and feeder rivers, leading to fatalities.

India has asked the Pakistani army for help after around 30 of its soldiers deployed on the Line of Control in Indian-controlled Kashmir were swept away – possibly into Pakistan-administered Kashmir – by separate flooding that has killed more than 150 people and left several hundred missing.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee