Friday, June 29, 2007

Monsoon aftermath in Pakistan

International Herald Tribune, via AP: Hungry victims of monsoon-spawned floods in southwestern Pakistan rioted Friday, protesting slow, meager aid for their marooned villages, where many feared the receding waters would yield numerous corpses.

Police fired tear gas and shots into the air but failed to disperse a crowd of several thousand villagers who broke into and ransacked the mayor's office in Turbat, a city ringed by floodwaters.

The widespread flooding struck after Cyclone Yemyin dumped torrential rains on Baluchistan province on Tuesday. Khubah Bakhsh, the relief commissioner for Baluchistan, estimated that more than 800,000 people had been affected by the floods and 200,000 houses had been destroyed or damaged.

The protesters said they had waded through chest-deep water from outlying areas to voice their anger over the dearth of relief aid. Only packets of biscuits and bottles of water had been received, they said. "Every family is looking for one or two members. They are all missing," said Chaker Baloth, who walked more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) through the night to reach Turbat, a city of about 150,000. Many feared they would never see their missing family members again.

"I don't know if there are more fish or bodies in the Mirani Dam," a local official said about the vastly expanded lake behind the dam which engulfed many communities about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Turbat. Military helicopters continued to drop relief supplies, but many of the victims appeared to have received little or nothing. Many were stranded in high open areas or on roofs in 10 districts of the province.

The government said the official death toll in Baluchistan was 14, with more than 24 missing, although local media reported much higher numbers.

…Twenty people also died in flash floods Thursday in the northwestern Khyber Agency tribal region, government official Ilyas Khan said. Floods damaged several bridges in the region, forcing a temporary suspension of the voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees through North West Frontier Province, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Friday. More than 2 million Afghans still live in camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border, having fled decades of conflict in their country.

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