Floods Paralyze Pakistan
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Pakistan is still reeling from the worst domestic plane crash in its history, and now it's in the midst of the worst flooding in memory. Torrential rains are devastating large parts of the country. More than 400 have died, and hundreds of thousands have fled as entire villages have been washed away by floods and landslides. One of the hardest-hit regions has been Pakistan's northwest. From Islamabad, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.
JULIE MCCARTHY: In parts of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the renamed northwest frontier province, more than seven inches of rain fell in the past 24 hours. It is the monsoon season here, but the head of Pakistan's Red Crescent Society says that no one alive has seen flooding of this kind. Retired Brigadier Ilyas Khan is the secretary general of the aid organization that is helping those stranded in the rain-ravaged areas.
Mr. ILYAS KHAN (Pakistan Red Crescent Society): These have been the unprecedented rains in 100 years. The record is broken. There's a need for immediate relief: for providing food and shelter, for the health facilities, and clean water to these people.
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MCCARTHY: In Islamabad, more than six inches of rain paralyzed the capital. In Rawalpindi, the garrison town beside Islamabad, the rain this morning subsided, and trucks ventured out into the mud-filled roads. But in the northern areas, roads remain underwater, with communication badly disrupted.
The Swat Valley is in the midst of recovering from the major dislocation caused by last summer's army offensive to dislodge the Taliban.
A natural disaster besieges it today. Bridges, homes, schools and hotels have been washed away. Heavy rains have limited the rescue operations, according to Lieutenant Colonel Amer Saddique, the spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority.
Lieutenant Colonel AMER SADDIQUE (National Disaster Management Authority): Yesterday, we could not help it; we could only operate five helicopters for a very short period of time. And we were able to evacuate around 900 people through heli and ground relief operations.
MCCARTHY: Television pictures from the region show entire localities submerged. People have taken refuge on rooftops. Others are wading through waist-deep water, carrying what is left of their belongings on their head. A C-130 has been dispatched to deliver some 30 Navy boats to the inundated areas.
But local media reports say that most people are facing this disaster alone. The deluge that has just begun to let up has delayed relief goods and aid workers from reaching the areas hardest hit. One photograph showed a rain-soaked family perched on a raft made from inflatable tubes and cots, using only a stick to paddle to safer ground.
Torrential rains have impeded work to recover the remains of victims from the air disaster here Wednesday. The government said 95 victims have been identified. The crash killed all 152 onboard when the plane plunged into the misty Margalla Hills around Islamabad.
Darwish Lal was among those anguished relatives still waiting today to claim the body of his uncle, to properly bury him.
So you can't hold a funeral until you have a body.
Mr. DARWISH LAL: We can't - doing the funeral without body part - any part. We want - to give us any part of body.
MCCARTHY: The sun broke through this morning and with it, hope that more remains, and the flight data recorder, will be recovered to help solve the mystery of why the Airblue jet went down.
Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.
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