Pakistan warned of fresh flooding along vast stretches of the Indus basin, as engineers raced to shore up defenses in the country’s sixth-largest city and reopen roads that have cut off the biggest refinery.
More rains are expected in the next 24 hours in central Punjab province and in the northwest, the worst-hit region, Muhammad Riaz, the chief meteorologist in Karachi, said by phone. Information Minister Qamar Zaman said 722,000 homes have already been damaged and flooded roads are hampering relief efforts.
The United Nations plans to launch an emergency appeal for aid today to assist six million people displaced by a wave of water that has descended on Pakistan’s economic heartland. Almost 700,000 hectares of standing crops are under water or destroyed by floodwaters, the Food and Agriculture Organization said, while Pak-Arab Refinery Ltd. closed its Multan plant, which processes a third of the country’s crude oil.
“Pakistan has never seen a disaster of this scale,” Abdul Sattar Edhi, founder of the Edhi Foundation, the nation’s biggest rescue service, said by telephone from Peshawar, predicting at least 2,200 people may have died so far. “We need to rebuild everything from scratch and the biggest challenge is rehabilitation.”
Southern Punjab province may face “critical flooding” between now and Aug. 14, Shafaqat Ahmed, the military commander for Multan said at a news conference today. A third flood peak may hit the area at the end of the month, he said.
Cotton, rice, sugarcane and maize crops have been damaged and fruit orchards have been washed away by the monsoon rains, putting at risk the government’s farm output growth target of 3.8 percent for the year that started July 1.
10 Times Volume
Almost two weeks after much of the northwest was first inundated, southern Sindh province is being ravaged by water flowing down the Indus at up to 10 times the normal volume.
Jacobabad, Sukkur and Larkana are among districts at risk. Low-lying areas of Hyderabad, Pakistan’s sixth-largest city, may be inundated within 24 hours.
“Our protective arrangements are all in place,” said Abdul Qadir Paleejo, executive engineer at the Kotri Barrage, a dam spanning the Indus 8 kilometers (5 miles) northwest of Hyderabad, a industrial city of 1.6 million people. “We have strengthened our embankments and protective walls.”
City officials began evacuating residents yesterday. The Kotri Barrage is the last dam along the swollen Indus as flood waters make their way to the sea, leaving behind a trail of unprecedented destruction.
Officials say the flood’s worst damage may be done at Hyderabad, the biggest population center directly on the 3,200- kilometer long Indus River. The city is home to textile mills and assembly plants for motorcycles and cars.
“The barrage has the capacity to withstand a flow of 875,000 cubic feet per second, while the incoming tide is carrying a flow of 800,000,” Paleejo said from his office at the dam. “We are hoping it will pass without causing any damage.”
Pakistan said yesterday it will waive farm loans and help rebuild homes for victims of the floods as the government and aid agencies acknowledged they are unable to reach or assist many of the 14 million uprooted so far.
The government will announce a sweeping rehabilitation package once it completes a survey of lives lost and damage to property, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan cited Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as saying. A cross-party committee will coordinate relief activities, he said, after visiting camps in Muzaffargarh and Layyah.
The UN’s appeal will be led by John Holmes, the emergency relief coordinator and undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs. Six million people need direct humanitarian assistance, 290,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged and 2 million people need shelter, the UN said in a statement.
The World Bank said today it will assess needs and draft a reconstruction plan for affected regions.
In Baluchistan province, “our stockpiles are nearly exhausted,” and trucks hauling tents have been blocked for a week by flooded roads, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said in an e-mailed message.
With more than 10,000 square kilometers (4,000 square miles) of Pakistan under water, the agency has delivered tents to people that have no dry land on which to pitch them.
About 1,600 people are known to have died in Pakistan, and hundreds more in India and Afghanistan, from flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains. The death toll may jump as more inundated areas become accessible, Edhi said.
Many people have died from the outbreak of diseases such as diarrhea and flood victims are in need of basic medicines, blankets and tents, Edhi said.
At least 500,000 people made homeless in the northwest are seeking shelter in public buildings and tent camps erected on high ground and along roads, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.
The United States and Islamic militant groups, both pushing for influence in the world’s sixth-most populous country, have sent teams to help homeless villagers in areas of the ethnic Pashtun northwest that for two years have been combat zones.
Pak-Arab Refinery’s plant at Multan, the nation’s biggest refinery, has been shut as a precaution due to the floods and may start supplying fuel within a week, company spokesman Saad Husain said by phone from Karachi. Natural gas output has fallen after floods forced the closure of a well at the Qadirpur field.
The U.S. yesterday pledged an additional $20 million in emergency aid, bringing its total promised to $55 million, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley told reporters.
Australia said today its air force will send two C-17 Globemaster aircraft this week to deliver emergency supplies.