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International aid reaches Pakistan, where floods have claimed more than 1,000 lives

Tents for flood-affected people are loaded to a helicopter by frontier constabularies, in Swat valley, Pakistan, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022.
Naveed Ali
Tents for flood-affected people are loaded to a helicopter by frontier constabularies, in Swat valley, Pakistan, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022.

ISLAMABAD — International aid was reaching Pakistan on Monday, as the military and volunteers desperately tried to evacuate many thousands stranded by widespread flooding driven by "monster monsoons" that have claimed more than 1,000 lives this summer.

Cargo planes from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates began the international rush to assist the impoverished nation, landing on Sunday in Islamabad carrying tents, food and other daily necessities. Trucks carrying tents, food, and water arranged by Pakistan were also being dispatched to various parts of the country by the National Disaster Management Authority for tens of thousands of flood victims.

They were among the nations that pledged to help Pakistan tackle the crisis after officials called for international help. The United Nations will launch an international appeal for Pakistani flood victims on Tuesday in Islamabad.

Prime Minister Shabaz Sharif on Monday said the rains are the heaviest Pakistan has seen in three decades.

"I saw floodwater everywhere, wherever I went in recent days and even today," Sharif said in Charsadda, one of the devastated towns.

So far, exceptionally heavy monsoon rains that triggered flash floods across the country have affected 33 million Pakistanis, damaged nearly 1 million homes and killed at least 1,061 people.

Pakistani authorities say this year's devastation is worse than in 2010, when floods killed 1,700 people. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the country's military chief, said Sunday that his country may take years to recover. He appealed to Pakistanis living abroad to generously donate to the flood victims.

Floods and rains have caused devastation in Pakistan at a time when the country is facing one of the worst economic crises. Pakistan says it recently narrowly avoided a default, and later Monday IMF's executive board was expected to approve the release of the much-awaited $1.7 billion for this Islamic nation.

Pakistan and the IMF originally signed the bailout accord in 2019. But the release of a $1.7 billion tranche has been on hold since earlier this year, when the IMF expressed concern about Pakistan's compliance with the deal's terms under former Prime Minister Imran Khan's government.

Khan was also expected to launch a fundraising campaign Monday evening for flood victims.

Last week, the United Nations in a statement said that it has allocated $3 million for U.N. aid agencies and their partners in Pakistan to respond to the floods and this money will be used for health, nutrition, food security, and water and sanitation services in flood-affected areas, focusing on the most vulnerable.

According to scientists and Sherry Rehman, a Pakistani senator and the country's climate minister, Pakistan suffered heavier rains this year mainly because of climate change, which also caused fire in forests this year.

However, critics say Pakistan's government has hardly any interest in building new dams and water reservoirs.

The unprecedented monsoon season has affected all four of the country's provinces. Floods have destroyed more than 150 bridges and numerous roads have been washed away, making rescue operations difficult. Authorities say they were using military planes, helicopters, trucks and boats to evacuate people from marooned people and deliver much-need aid to them.

However, many survivors complain they were still waiting for help or they received too little assistance from the government after being displaced because of floods. Some people say they got tents but not food. Pakistan charities were also active in flood-hit areas, and the government says everyone should contribute to help flood victims.

The government has deployed at least 6,500 soldiers to help civilian authorities in rescue and relief operations across the country.

Sharif has said the government would provide housing to all those who lost their homes.

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The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]