Thousands flee S. Pakistan floods

Tens of thousands of people in southern
Pakistan are fleeing a threatened flood-surge, three weeks after heavy monsoon
rains first hit the country.

In one village in Sindh province,
Shahdadkot, people are trying to salvage their belongings amid fears a protective
barrier will be breached.

An estimated 4m people have now been
displaced in the city of Sukkar alone.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization
(WHO) says diseases are spreading in affected areas.

Sindh in the south is now being
described as the country’s worst-hit province, with officials saying at least
200,000 residents have fled in the last 24 hours.

‘Laden carts’

In Shahdadkot, villagers have been
leaving en masse in an attempt to reach safe ground in case a mud embankment
holding back the water back is breached.

The BBC’s Jill McGivering, who is in the
village, says the wall – about four feet high – is the last defence.

There are people pushing in all
directions, mostly trying to leave the area. Many of them are travelling with
carts laden with family members and belongings.

Jam Saifullah Dharejo, Sindh provincial
irrigation minister, said that most people had been escorted to safety, but
efforts were under way to help those still stranded.

“We are trying to save the city
from the unprecedented flood,” he said.

Some residents say they do not want to
leave.

“This is the place where I earn my
bread and butter. I live here and will die here,” Mohammad Jaffar, a
shopkeeper, told Reuters news agency.

Mr Dharejo added that the floods did not
pose a risk to Hyderabad, the province’s second largest city.

Diarrhoea cases

Our correspondent says that, in Sukkar,
a fraction of people are in relief camps – but the vast majority are out in the
open, fending for themselves.

The WHO says displaced communities are
highly vulnerable to epidemics because of a lack of sanitation and hygiene.

The organisation in its latest report
said that over 200,000 people have reported acute diarrhoea, with about the
same number suffering acute respiratory problems.

Millions of livestock are also at risk,
according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which said that
at least 200,000 animals had died already as a result of the disaster.

The floods, which began last month in
Pakistan’s north-west and have since swept south, have killed at least 1,600
people and affected about 20 million.

Earlier, the International Monetary Fund
said Pakistan faced a “massive economic challenge”.

It is due to begin talks with Pakistani officials in Washington on
Monday and said it would help Pakistan review the country’s budget and
financial prospects.

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