The death toll from Pakistan’s worst floods in living memory topped 1,000 as outbreaks of waterborne disease emerged and penniless survivors sought refuge from the raging torrents. “More than 1,000 people have been killed by floods in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province,” said provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain. A senior official at the provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) also confirmed the toll. A total of 862 people have been killed by monsoon rains, flash floods and landslides around the north-west province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and at least 47 have died in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, officials said.
Up to one million people have been affected in all, according to the UN, with thousands of homes and vast swathes of farm land destroyed in a region of Pakistan already reeling from years of extremist bloodshed. “This is the worst flood in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the country’s history,” said Mr Hussain. Hundreds of survivors were finding shelter in schools in Peshawar, the main city in north-west Pakistan, and in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, after escaping the floods with children on their backs. Pakistani television and photographs shot from helicopters showed people clinging to the walls and rooftops of damaged houses as gushing waters rampaged through villages. Muqaddir Khan, 25, who fled the floods with nine relatives, said he had lost everything. “I laboured hard in Saudi Arabia for three years and set up a small shop which was swept away by flooding in minutes,” Khan said. Razia Bibi, 48, said she and her family had a sleepless night watching the floodwaters rise. “My house has now gone under water and I could escape with only a few belongings,” Bibi said.
Pakistan’s weather bureau said an “unprecedented” 312 millimetres of rain had fallen in 36 hours in the north-west, but predicted only scattered showers during coming days. In neighbouring Afghanistan, flash floods have killed at least 65 people and affected more than 1,000 families, officials said. More than 3,700 houses have been swept away by the floods in Pakistan and the number of people made homeless is rising, the provincial minister said. “The flash floods destroyed maize and (rice) paddy crops in Nowshera (town),” Mr Hussain said. “Our rescue teams are also trying to extricate some 1,500 tourists who are stranded in the Kalam and Behrain towns of Swat district,” he said, referring to a region where the military last year waged a major anti-Taliban offensive. “We are also getting confirmation of reports about an outbreak of cholera in some areas of Swat,” Mr Hussain added. The army said it had sent boats and helicopters to rescue stranded people and its engineers were trying to open more roads and divert swollen rivers.