13.8m affected by Pakistan floods
Misery exceeds tsunami and quakes, UN says
ISLAMABAD — The number of people suffering from the massive floods in Pakistan exceeds 13 million — more than the combined total of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the United Nations said yesterday.
The death toll in each of those three disasters was much higher than the 1,500 people killed so far in the floods that first hit Pakistan two weeks ago. But the UN estimates that 13.8 million people have been affected — over 2 million more than the other disasters combined.
The comparison helps frame the scale of the crisis, which the prime minister said yesterday was the worst in Pakistan’s history. It has overwhelmed the government, generating widespread anger from flood victims who have complained that aid is not reaching them quickly enough or at all.
Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said people are considered affected by the floods if they will need some form of assistance to recover, either short-term humanitarian aid or longer-term reconstruction help. The number of people affected in the three other disasters was about 11 million, he said — 5 million in the tsunami and 3 million in each of the earthquakes.
In China yesterday, rescuers lifted muddy bodies into trucks, and aid convoys choked the road into the remote town where hundreds died and more than 1,100 were missing from landslides caused by heavy rain that has flooded swaths of Asia and spread misery to millions.
Pakistani rescue workers have been unable to reach up to 600,000 people marooned in Swat Valley in the northwest, said Giuliano. Bad weather has prevented helicopters from flying to the area, which is inaccessible by ground, he said.
Hundreds of thousands of people have also had to flee rising flood waters in recent days in the central and southern provinces of Punjab and Sindh because heavy rains have continued to pound parts of the country.
President Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, said the United States is sending a wide range of assistance to Pakistan. That includes $35 million in financial aid, added onto the $7.5 million already designated, as well as food, shelter, medical supplies, and other items.
In addition, the United States has delivered 436,000 meals, 12 prefabricated bridges, 14 rescue boats, six water filtration units, and a generator. US helicopters are supporting rescue efforts andwill continue to evacuate stranded citizens and transport supplies.
The flood death toll in China jumped to 337 late yesterday after Sunday’s landslides in the northwestern province of Gansu — the deadliest event so far in the country’s worst flooding in a decade. A debris-blocked swollen river burst, swamping entire mountain villages in the county seat of Zhouqu and ripping homes from their foundations.
The government said 1,148 people were reported missing last night.