The local head of Pakistan’s largest rescue service said the death toll from flash floods in the country could reach thousands in the next few days.
Already, over 800 deaths have been reported because of the devastation brought by the floods in the country’s northwest.
“The death toll could go as high as 3,000 because the level of destruction has been so great,” Mujahid Khan, chief spokesman for Edhi rescue service, the country’s biggest, said by telephone from Peshawar today. Khan later said the number of fatalities was now 817.
The flooding deaths come after 152 people died when a plane crashed in heavy rain near the capital on July 28. Homes and bridges have collapsed in the rain, live electric wires have fallen into the waters and families have been swept away in the floods.
“We can see people drowning but we can’t go into the water because of its high pressure,” Khan said yesterday. “The relief efforts of everyone combined is only 5 percent of what’s required.”
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, who toured the stricken province by air, ordered his government to rescue people and provide food supplies to those at safe locations.
Floods may reach the southern province of Sindh within the next few days, Information Minister Sumsam Bokhari told a news conference in Islamabad. The Sindh government has ordered residents along the banks of the River Indus to be evacuated.
Army troops equipped with life jackets, motorboats and heavy rafts were called in yesterday to help move families to safety, according to a statement on the military website.
Pakistani television channels showed images of people on flooded roads grabbing wreckage to keep from being swept away, drowning goats and buffalo, and makeshift boats.
“All the houses in my village have been destroyed and now it’s simply a fight for survival,” Mehmood Khan, a tribal elder, said by telephone from Wana, South Waziristan yesterday. “Food supplies have started to run out. We haven’t eaten in 48 hours and the scant food supplies we saved for women and children may not last long.”
The districts of Nowshera, Charsadda, Peshawar, Swat, and Lower Dir are the worst-affected, according to the government.
The first spell of the monsoon started on July 22 and affected the western province of Baluchistan, according to the National Disaster Management Agency in Islamabad.