ISLAMABAD (AP) — The death toll from widespread flooding in Pakistan since mid-June has risen to 1,000, officials said Sunday, as the country’s climate minister called the deadly monsoon season “an extreme climate disaster.”
Flash floods caused by heavy rain washed away villages and crops, soldiers and rescue workers evacuated stranded people to safety in relief camps and provided food to thousands of displaced Pakistanis.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority announced that the death toll since this year’s monsoon started earlier than usual – in mid-June – reached 1,061 after new deaths were reported in different provinces.
Pakistan’s senator and the country’s top climate official, Sherry Rehman, said in a video posted on Twitter that Pakistan “is facing a severe climate disaster, one of the most severe in decades.”
“We are currently at ground zero on the front lines of extreme weather events, in an unrelenting cascade of heat waves, forest fires, flash floods, multiple glacial lake outbursts, flood events. – Stop the destruction across the country,” he said. The camera report was retweeted by the country’s ambassador to the EU. did
Overnight floods from the Swat River affected the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where tens of thousands of people – particularly in Sarsada and Nowshehra districts – were evacuated from their homes to relief camps set up in government buildings. Provincial government spokesman Kamran Bangash said many people were sheltering on roadsides.
About 180,000 people have been evacuated from Sarshad and 150,000 from villages in Nowshehra district, Bangash said.
Khaista Rehman, 55, who is not related to the climate minister, took shelter with his wife and three children on the side of the Islamabad-Peshawar highway after their house in Sarshad was inundated overnight.
“Thank God we are now safe on this very high road from the flooded area,” he said. “Our crops are destroyed, our house is destroyed, but I am grateful to Allah that we are alive and will start life again with my sons.”
The unprecedented monsoon has affected all four provinces of the country. Nearly 300,000 homes have been destroyed, numerous roads have become impassable and power has been cut, affecting millions of people.
On Sunday, Pope Francis said he wanted to make sure “the people of Pakistan are close to the people affected by the floods of catastrophic proportions.” Speaking during a pilgrimage to the Italian city of L’Aquila, which was hit by a deadly earthquake in 2009, Francis said he prays “for the many victims, the wounded, the displaced, that international solidarity be immediate. Generous.”
Rehman told Turkish news agency TRD World that by the time the rains recede, “we could have a quarter or a third of Pakistan under water.”
“This is a global crisis and of course we need better planning and sustainable development on the ground. … We need to have climate-resilient crops and structures,” he said.
In May, Rehman told BBC Newshour that both the north and south of the country had seen more extreme weather events as temperatures rose. “So, actually right now in the north we’re experiencing … what’s called a glacial lake outburst flood, which has a lot to do with the fact that Pakistan has the largest number of glaciers outside of the polar region.”
The government has deployed soldiers to assist civil authorities in rescue and relief efforts across the country. The Pakistan Army said that 22 tourists who were trapped in a valley in the north of Pakistan were safely rescued by plane.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited flood victims in Jafarabad city of Balochistan. He promised that the government would provide housing to all those who lost their homes.
Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Asim Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan and Francis D’Emilio in Rome contributed.
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