Nightly News   |  August 14, 2010

Pakistan Independence Day drowned out by flood despair

As relief workers struggled to deliver aid to flood-ravaged Pakistan, the UN confirmed Saturday that waterborne diseases including cholera have broken out. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and in pakistan , a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding after the worst flooding in decades. the united nations estimates 6 million people still need food, water and shelter and have not received any assistance at all. now the u.s. marines are helping out, flying missions into pakistan 's remote swat valley . nbc's stephanie gosk rode along and has our report.

>> reporter: u.s. helicopter pilots flying aid missions in pakistan 's swat valley say the terrain there is beautiful but deadly. the gorges are deep and the weather changes quickly. it is also where an estimated 100,000 people have been trapped since the floods hit just over two weeks ago, washing away every bridge. most of the 1,400 people killed by the raging water died here.

>> translator: there's no clean drinking water here, no food, nothing. everything has been swept away by the floods.

>> reporter: disease is spreading. today the first case of cholera was confirmed and thousands of children are sick with diarrhea. the pakistani military has asked u.s. forces to focus their relief effort in swat. in the last nine days, u.s. helicopters have evacuated more than 3,000 people and delivered 180 tons of food.

>> our guards will sit in the back.

>> reporter: major dan rice is the commander of the task force . when they got the call, his unit was on tour in afghanistan.

>> they're thrilled. i have more volunteering to come out to come over here and help still in afghanistan, still wanting to come.

>> reporter: today we joined his team and ran into the same problem that has grounded more than half of their flights -- rain. we just got word that we have to turn around. clouds have moved into the swat valley and it's now too unsafe to land, a good indication of just how difficult it is to bring aid to people that are stranded there. back on base, the marines have just arrived to take over the effort. flown in from the u.s. in the arabian sea . 19 helicopters in total. the commander of the operation acknowledges that they have a difficult job ahead.

>> the notion that it's taking time to get to some of the people that have been affected is not surprising to me. this is a historically large disaster.

>> reporter: when the clouds broke, the marines flew north in a remote mountain village , they delivered flour and high-nutrient biscuits and evacuated the neediest, many of them hungry, sick and homeless. a successful day, weather permitting, they hope to do it again tomorrow. stephanie gosk, nbc news, swat valley , pakistan .