– Mass evacuations as flood threatens to destroy dam (Independent):
Rising water levels were last night threatening one of Pakistan’s largest dams, forcing the authorities to evacuate more people even as raging floods surged south into the country’s heartland, destroying communities and ruining livelihoods. Officials in the country’s north-west said unprecedented flooding had caused the water level at Warsak Dam near Peshawar to soar, already prompting the voluntary evacuation of some of the city’s residents and forcing the authorities to draw up plans to move those who sought to stay. “If needed, forced evacuation will be started,” said Adnan Khan of the Disaster Management Authority of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Even while waters recede in some parts of the north-west, it is far from clear that the country’s misery is over. Aid agencies estimate more than 3.2m people have now been affected by the nation’s most severe floods in recent history and the water that has caused such chaos is now reportedly moving south, sweeping into Punjab province.
Residents evacuated from outskirts of Peshawar as aid agencies warn disease could become biggest killer in floods
Further rainfall and rising water levels threatened Pakistan’s third-largest dam as relief officials warned that disease could become the biggest killer in the country’s most destructive floods in more than 30 years.
Officials asked residents in the northern outskirts of Peshawar, in north-west Pakistan, to leave their homes as water levels rose at the Warsak dam. “If needed, forced evacuation will be started,” said Adnan Khan, a spokesman for the disaster management authority of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province.
River gorges flowing from the north-west began to flood villages in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province and home to many of its biggest farms. About 3,000 people were marooned in the Kot Addu area of southern Punjab after the water breached a flood bank, forcing the army to evacuate people using boats and helicopters.
The sudden surge surprised Fateh Mohammad and his family. “We just ran away with our children, leaving behind everything. All our possessions are drowned in the water. We have nothing,” he told Reuters.
Abdul Sami Malik, of Unicef, said: “What we have heard from Punjab is that 50,000 people have already been displaced and 200,000 people are being evacuated from Sindh.”
At least 1,400 people have died and up to 3 million have been affected by the floods that followed heavy monsoon rains over the last week. The disaster poses another test for the president, Asif Ali Zardari, as he grapples with a Taliban insurgency and other problems such as chronic power cuts and a diplomatic row with Britain over claims by David Cameron that elements in Pakistan are exporting terrorism.
Zardari, who arrives in Britain today as part of a European tour, has been criticised for staying away as Pakistan struggles with the emergency. The opposition has called for protests over his absence, while anger has flared over the aid effort. Relief has been hampered by submerged roads, washed out bridges and downed communication lines.
In the town of Charsadda, in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, police with batons charged people after they attacked lorries distributing supplies.
Bistma Bibi, 65, who lost two grandsons in the floods, accused government relief workers of only looking out for friends or relatives. “I came here at 5 o’clock in the morning. I did my best. I begged and fought but got nothing. They’re giving them [supplies] to their people,” she told Reuters.
About 300 people blocked a major road in the hard-hit Nowshera district to protest at receiving little or no aid, witnesses said.
Islamist charities, some with suspected ties to militants, have stepped in to provide aid, challenging the government to show it can take charge. Islamist groups played a key role in the relief effort after the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir that left 75,000 people dead.
Amid the relief effort came warnings of the spread of disease. Merlin, the British medical relief group, warned that diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases could fast become the biggest killer in the emergency.
The group’s operations manager, Marinella Bebos, said: “With water supplies contaminated and an estimated 2.5 million people affected, Merlin’s main concern is to manage the spread of disease – diarrhoea and other infectious diseases will claim thousands of lives if we do not act fast.”
In one district, Unicef, the UN agency for children, reported that 80% of the drinking wells had been destroyed. The agency said it had already received reports of cases of diarrhoea among children.
“Food, clean drinking water, health supplies, high-energy biscuits, clothing for women and children and vaccines, are needed urgently. We have already provided a first tranche of humanitarian supplies and will be bringing in more over the next days during this critical life-saving period”, said Martin Mogwanja, Unicef’s representative in Pakistan.
Most of the displaced people are crammed into public buildings, including schools and colleges. Among them are thousands of Afghan refugees and displaced Pakistanis who have lost their homes for the second time.
“Those who survived these punishing floods are still at grave risk. They are exposed and vulnerable and urgently need our help,” said the UN high commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres.
“The Pakistani people of this region have been serving as the generous hosts of more than a million Afghan refugees. Now is the time for the international community to demonstrate the same kind of solidarity with them.”
Mark Tran and agencies
Tuesday 3 August 2010 12.03 BST
Source: The Guardian