Pakistan’s floods misery deepens

Pakistanis displaced by floods queue for food at a camp in Sehwan, Sindh Province, on Tuesday. (HUSNAIN ALI / AFP)

ISLAMABAD-At least 54 people have been killed and six others injured in heavy monsoon rain-triggered flash floods in just 24 hours in Pakistan, the National Disaster Management Authority said, as the death toll from the country's record-breaking floods climbed higher above 1,400.

According to a report released by the authority on Tuesday evening, 18 children and 10 women were among those who lost their lives in separate flood-related incidents.

Sindh Province in the south was the worst-hit region with 44 killed, followed by the southwestern Balochistan Province, which reported eight deaths with six others injured, the report said.

The rains, which started in mid-June, have swept away entire villages, bridges and roads, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. At one point, a third of the country was inundated.

Authorities said the overall death toll reached 1,481 on Tuesday, with the majority of those deaths in Sindh. Experts have blamed climate change in large part for the deluge, the worst in recent memory.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's minister for climate change, warned that the rains, which had abated late last month only to restart this week, are predicted to continue lashing much of the country in the coming weeks.

Rehman also expressed fears the downpours would hamper ongoing rescue and relief operations in the devastated areas, where swirling deluges from overflowing rivers, fast melting glaciers and floods have already affected 33 million people.

So far, rescuers have evacuated 179,281 people from flood-ravaged areas.

It will take up to six months to drain the water from the affected areas, officials say. Waterborne diseases have already sickened thousands of people in flood-stricken areas-and now there are fears of mosquito-borne dengue fever. Mosquitoes have spread with the stagnant waters.

"With 584,246 people in camps throughout the country, the health crisis could wreak havoc," Rehman said in a statement.

The floods have also destroyed crops, including 70 percent of the onion harvest, along with rice and corn, Rehman said. Much of the country's agriculture belt is under water and Pakistan is in talks with several nations to import wheat. Iran has already sent fresh vegetables to Pakistan.

Food relief packages from China were distributed on Sunday in Balochistan.

"China has always stood with Pakistan as a brother when we faced these hard times," said Pakistan's Minister for Narcotics Control Nawabzada Shazain Bugti, adding that the country looks forward to deepening cooperation with China to improve infrastructure in education and medical care, among other fields.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif's government has started distributing money to those who have lost homes to help them restart their lives.

The floods have damaged 1.7 million homes, according to the National Disaster Management Agency. Thousands of pregnant women are living in tents and makeshift homes.

Initially, Pakistan estimated that the floods caused $10 billion in damages, but authorities now say the cost is far greater. The devastation has prompted the United Nations to urge the international community to send more help.