NOWSHERA, Pakistan (July 31) — Flooding in Pakistan has killed more than 800 people in a week, a government official said Saturday as rescuers struggled to reach marooned victims and some evacuees showed signs of fever, diarrhea and other waterborne diseases.
In neighboring eastern Afghanistan, floods have killed 64 people and injured 61 others in the past week, while destroying hundreds of homes and huge stretches of farmland, an Afghan official said.
In Pakistan, the flooding caused by record-breaking rainfalls caused massive destruction, especially in the northwest province, where officials said it was the worst deluge since 1929. The U.N. estimated Saturday that some 1 million people nationwide were affected by the disaster, though it didn’t specify exactly what that meant.
The information minister for Pakistan’s northwest province, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, said reports coming in from various districts across the northwest showed that more than 800 people had died due to the flooding. Many people remain missing.
Pakistan’s army said it was difficult to give an exact death toll and damage to areas could be worse than thought.”The level of devastation is so widespread, so large,” said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. “It is quite possible that in many areas there is damage, deaths, which may not have been reported.”
He said over 30,000 troops engaged in rescue and relief work had evacuated 19,000 trapped people by Saturday night.
Floodwaters were receding in the northwest, Pakistani officials said, but fresh rains were expected to lash other parts of the country in the coming days.
In the Nowshera area in the northwest, scores of men, women and children sat on roofs in hopes of air or boat rescues.
"There are very bad conditions," said Amjad Ali, a rescue worker in the area. "They have no water, no food."
A doctor treating evacuees at a small relief camp in Nowshera said some had diarrhea and others had marks appearing on their skin, causing itching. Children and the elderly seemed to have the most problems, Mehmood Jaa said.
"Due to the floodwater, they now have pain in their bodies and they are suffering from fever and cough," Jaa told The Associated Press.
In Charsadda, Nabi Gul, who estimated he was around 70 years old, stood shaken at the site of what was once his house and now was just rubble.
"I built this house with my life’s earnings and hard work, and the river has washed it away," he said in a trembling voice. "Now I wonder, will I be able to rebuild it? And in this time, when there are such great price hikes?"
In eastern Afghanistan, floods destroyed about 800 homes and hundreds of acres (hectares) of farm land, damaged hydropower dams and partially destroyed more than 500 other houses, according to Matin Edrak, director of the Afghan government’s disaster department.
Most of the flooding was in eight provinces, including Kabul, he said.
The Afghan government is distributing $2,000 in compensation to the families of each victim and is providing shelter, blankets, food and other aid to flooding victims.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, rescuers were using army helicopters, heavy trucks and boats to try reaching flood-hit areas, the U.N. said. It reported that thousands of homes and roads were destroyed, and at least 45 bridges across the northwest were damaged.
The destruction is slowing the rescue effort, said Lutfur Rehman, a government official in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, the northwest province.
"Our priority is to transport flood-affected people to safer places. We are carrying out this rescue operation despite limited resources," he said, adding they needed more helicopters and boats.
Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, the head of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, said that no more rain was expected in the next few days for the northwest and that floodwaters there were receding. But Punjab province in the east, Sindh province in the south, and Pakistan’s side of the disputed Kashmir region all could expect a lashing over the next three or four days, he said.
Flooding has already affected some of those regions, with more than 21 people dying in Kashmir. A plane crash that killed 152 people in Islamabad on Wednesday also occurred during stormy weather.