Nightly News   |  August 16, 2010

Nearly one-fifth of Pakistan under floodwaters

Epic flooding in Pakistan has reached such a critical state that the UN Secretary General issued an urgent appeal Monday for more international aid. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

WILLIAMS: Good evening.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: This is no longer the story of rampant flooding in a far away place halfway around the world . Tonight, it's the story of a natural disaster so large, so staggering, it threatens to destabilize the entire nation of Pakistan , a country with nuclear weapons in a dangerous part of the world. Tonight water covers about a fifth of Pakistan , the length of the country from north to south, an area roughly equal in size to the state of Florida . The rainwaters have been relentless this monsoon season, and more of them are on the way. Twenty million people have been affected by the flooding. Six million are at risk right now of deadly disease. There's no way of knowing the number of dead. Early estimates begin at 1500 . They'll likely grow exponentially. We begin our reporting with NBC 's Stephanie Gosk in Pakistan .

STEPHANIE GOSK reporting: In Pakistan , desperation. Nineteen days after monsoon rains turned into deadly floods, millions still don't have enough food or clean water . In the heartland today, angry protests at the lack of help. In the rugged northwest, cut off after bridges washed away, a mule train packed with rice and cooking oil tried to make its way around falling rocks. Where the water is still rising, some of the stranded escaped by zipline, others by raft. Today the UN said 3.5 million children were at risk from deadly disease. In the children's ward at Mardan hospital there aren't enough beds and the patients keep coming in. Dr. Agram Kahn says this two-month-old girl may not have long to live. Diarrhea and fever are more than her vulnerable system can handle. Nearly every child here has the same symptoms, all sick because they drank dirty water . Kahn worries that some may have cholera, but the test is expensive and takes too long.

Dr. AGRAM KAHN: It is getting very much worse. Here, can just see these poor people dying in front of us because of lack of facilities.

GOSK: The antibiotics are gone. The hospital hasn't received any supplies from the government or relief organizations. The doctors here say they are in desperate need of aid, but that they don't have the time to actually ask for it. They're doubling up on shifts, some working through the night, which is their busiest time. They're not getting any help. But they continue to accept patients, like Gol Furoza 's two children. She brought them here in the middle of night.

Ms. GOL FUROZA:

GOSK: 'My son was kicking his hands and feet,' she told us, 'shaking and shivering violently in bed.' Ten miles from the hospital, the children's father showed us where they have been living since the flood destroyed their home, 10 feet away a water pump still being used, even though the water is probably contaminated. As we left, we saw Gol Furoza walking back to the village. She has nowhere else to go, even if it puts her last healthy child at risk. Stephanie Gosk, NBC News, Mardan, Pakistan .