Pakistan flood toll rises with 25 children among 57 more deaths

03 September 2022 - 12:32
By Syed Raza Hassan
People are seen outside their flooded house after rains and floods during the monsoon season in Suhbatpur, Pakistan, on August 28.
Image: Amer Hussain/Reuters People are seen outside their flooded house after rains and floods during the monsoon season in Suhbatpur, Pakistan, on August 28.

The toll from cataclysmic floods in Pakistan continued to climb on Saturday with 57 more deaths, 25 children, as the country grapples with a relief and rescue operation.

A high-level body set up to co-ordinate the relief effort met in Islamabad on Saturday for the first time, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to take stock of the disaster.

Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in northern mountains brought floods that have affected 33 million people and killed at least 1,265 people, including 441 children. The inundation, blamed on climate change, is still spreading.

The proportion of children's deaths has raised concern. On Friday, the UN children's agency (Unicef) said there was a risk of “many more” child deaths from disease after floods.

The floods that have inundated a third of the country were preceded by four heatwaves and multiple raging forest fires, the disaster management chief told the meeting, highlighting the effects of climate change in the South Asian nation.

“The year brought some harsh realities of climate change to Pakistan,” the chief of the National Disaster Management Authority Lt-Gen Akhtar Nawaz told a briefing for the country's top leadership.

“This year we did not witness a spring season — we faced four heatwaves which caused large-scale forest fires across the country,” he said.

The fires were particularly severe in the southwestern province of Balochistan, destroying swathes of pine-nut forests and other vegetation not far from areas now underwater.

Balochistan has received 436% more rain than the 30-year average this monsoon.

The province has seen widespread devastation, including a washing away of key rail and road networks and breakdowns in telecom and power infrastructure, the meeting was told.

The country has received nearly 190% more rain than the 30-year average in the quarter to August totalling 390.7mm. Sindh province, with a population of 50-million, was hardest hit getting 464% more rain.

Aid has flowed in from a number of countries, with the first humanitarian assistance flight from France landing on Saturday morning in Islamabad. But Pakistan's largest charity group has said there were still millions who had not been reached by aid and relief efforts.

Initial estimates of the damage have been put at $10bn (R173bn) but surveys are still being conducted along with international organisations.

The UN has appealed for $160m in aid to help tackle an “unprecedented climate catastrophe” as Pakistan's navy has fanned out inland to carry out relief operations in areas that resemble a sea.