Misery mounts for millions in Pakistan’s ‘monsoon on steroids’

MINGORA, PAKISTAN (AFP) – Army helicopters flew sorties over cut-off areas in Pakistan’s mountainous north on Wednesday (Aug 31) and rescue parties fanned out across waterlogged plains in the south as misery mounted for millions trapped by the worst floods in the country’s history.

Monsoon rains have submerged a third of Pakistan, claiming at least 1,160 lives since June and unleashing powerful floods that have washed away swathes of vital crops and damaged or destroyed more than a million homes.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called it “a monsoon on steroids” as he launched an international appeal late Tuesday for US$160 million (S$220 million) in emergency funding.

Officials say more than 33 million people are affected – one in every seven Pakistanis – and it will cost more than US$10 billion to rebuild.

The focus for now, however, is reaching tens of thousands still stranded on hills and in valleys in the north, as well as remote villages in the south and west.

“We appeal to the government to help end our miseries at the soonest,” said Mohammad Safar, 38, outside his submerged home on Wednesday in Shikarpur in the southeastern province of Sindh.

“The water must be drained out from here immediately so we can go back to our homes.” There is so much water however that there is nowhere for it to drain.

Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman described the country as “like a fully soaked sponge”, incapable of absorbing any more rain.

‘Burning with pain’

Pakistan has received twice its usual monsoon rainfall, weather authorities say, but Balochistan and Sindh provinces have seen more than four times the average of the last three decades.

Padidan, a small town in Sindh, has been drenched with an astonishing 1.75 metres since June.

Pakistan receives heavy – often destructive – rains during its annual monsoon season, which are crucial for agriculture and water supplies, but such intense downpours have not been seen for three decades.

Officials have blamed climate change, which is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather around the world.

Earlier this year much of the nation was in the grip of a drought and heatwave, with temperatures hitting 51 deg C in Sindh province.