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Monsoonal floods kill 430 people in northwest Pakistan

People waded through water while fleeing floods in Risalpur, Nowshera District, Pakistan. Hundreds of villages and towns were under several feet of water. People waded through water while fleeing floods in Risalpur, Nowshera District, Pakistan. Hundreds of villages and towns were under several feet of water. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)
Associated Press / July 31, 2010

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Boats and helicopters struggled to reach hundreds of thousands of villagers cut off by floods in northwest Pakistan yesterday as the government said 430 people had been killed in the deadliest such disaster to hit the region since 1929.

The flooding capped a deadly week in Pakistan, which is no stranger to calamities, natural or otherwise. A passenger jet flying in bad weather slammed into hills overlooking the capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board.

Three days of heavy monsoonal rains across the northwest caused scores of rivers to burst their banks, tearing down 60 bridges and scores of roads and buildings.

Hundreds of villages and towns, along with massive swaths of agricultural land, were under several feet of water.

Associated Press Television News footage showed a powerful torrent running through the center of Mingora town in the Swat Valley, carrying debris and trees with it. Hundreds of residents trudged through flooded streets as rescue officials used loudspeakers to urge them to evacuate homes in low-lying areas.

An AP reporter traveled in an army helicopter dropping tents and food supplies to stricken communities in the northwest. He flew over around 150 villagers that were inundated close to the border with South Waziristan. The three major roads in the region were blocked.

“This is a natural calamity, and we will do whatever is possible to reach the flood-affected people and to help them,’’ said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister for Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa Province. “We appeal to the world community to help us. We need a lot of assistance.’’

The United Nations said it and other international bodies were looking at ways to help the region, parts of which have also seen operations by Pakistan’s military against Islamist militants over the last two years. Hundreds of people have been killed in bombings and other attacks by the insurgents.

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