Pakistanis Suffer After Devastating Floods

Rescuers continue to search for people trapped by massive flood waters in Pakistan. As many as 1,000 people may have been killed. Many have criticized the government's rescue efforts as too slow. The United Nations has issued a global appeal for assistance.

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As if Pakistan didn't have enough trouble, much of the country has gone underwater in recent days. Monsoon rains have swept much of Pakistan, especially the war-torn northwest. The seasonal rains are a regular event, but rarely so severe. Army and navy rescue teams have evacuated more than 20,000 people, and we're told that many more need help. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on storms that have killed, at a minimum, hundreds of people.

JULIE MCCARTHY: The full has yet to emerge, but the scenes from the area show the power that nature unleashed on Pakistan's sprawling Northwest Kyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Officials say that in just two days the flooded areas received ten times the rainfall they normally get in one month.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: Authorities sounded warnings, but in most cases, they came too late. Children clung to trees to escape the rising waters. Farmers helplessly watched as their livestock struggled against the currents. Their bloated carcasses now rot in the fetid waters.

By the hundreds, men, women and children were swept away or crushed under collapsing bridges and mud homes that were no match for the fury of the raging rivers crisscrossing the region.

(Soundbite of helicopter)

MCCARTHY: The army mobilized over the weekend. Their treacherous task -airlifting stranded people out and dropping medical supplies in. A U.S. C-130 arrived from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan with thousands of meals for the mass of people without food, shelter, and clean water.

Muhammad Ateeb Siddiqui is the Director of Operations for the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, the countrys largest private humanitarian aid group.

Mr. MUHAMMAD ATEEB SIDDIQUI (Director of operations, Pakistan Red Crescent Society): The magnitude of the displacement is so large we are now hearing figures of over 2.5 million people having been affected. So it's a very, very difficult task. Its a very challenging one.

We've been setting up health camps all over the country because health is another issue that is going to be very, very difficult to handle once the water starts to recede.

MCCARTHY: As the flood waters recede, survivors are searching for shelter and aid. The crisis is especially acute in the Swat Valley that was recovering from an army onslaught against the Taliban last year. Local authorities say that nearly all the bridges that the army had reconstructed have been damaged.� The scale of the disaster has slowed the governments response, and the public mood is described as shifting from frustrated to furious.

The United States is rushing helicopters, boats and pre-fabricated bridges to the flood-ravaged region, some of which is isolated and inaccessible with roads washed out.

As a humanitarian crisis unfolds, Pakistans government is struggling against time and nature.�The forecast calls for more rain in another monsoon system that could complicate already difficult relief efforts.�

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.�

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