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Pakistan flooding washes out 800,000

Helicopters were air-dropping urgent relief aid Thursday to some of the more than 800,000 people battered by monsoon-spawned flooding in coastal areas of Pakistan, officials said.
A Pakistani navy helicopter winches a fl
A Pakistani Navy helicopter winches a flood victim to safety Thursday in Turbat.Asif Hassan / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Helicopters were air-dropping urgent relief aid Thursday to some of the more than 800,000 people battered by monsoon-spawned flooding in coastal areas of Pakistan, officials said.

Many of the stricken were living in higher open areas or atop the roofs of buildings to escape the floodwaters that inundated large areas of Baluchistan province in the wake of Cyclone Yemyin.

Severe floods have also ravaged four eastern provinces of neighboring Afghanistan, causing at least four deaths, a NATO statement said.

NATO troops and Afghan police rescued 42 trapped villagers in Kapisa province Wednesday. Flooding was also reported in the provinces of Kabul, Parwan and Kunar, where four persons died Tuesday when the Pech River overran its banks.

Elsewhere on the subcontinent, monsoon storms have taken the lives of more than 120 people in India.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern at the loss of life and serious damage caused by the storms in Pakistan and India and reaffirmed the U.N.'s readiness "to support national and local efforts to provide emergency assistance to the survivors," spokeswoman Michele Montas said at U.N. headquarters in New York.

In Pakistan, the army took over the relief operations, using 14 helicopters and C130 transport planes to reach areas in most need of help.

200,000 homes hit
Khubah Bakhsh, the provincial relief commissioner, estimated that some 200,000 houses had been destroyed or damaged. More than 800,000 people have been affected by the floods, caused by heavy rains and spillovers from rivers and dams, he said.

The cyclone struck the coastline of Baluchistan on Tuesday, killing at least 12 people, said Raziq Bugti, spokesman for the provincial government in an earlier report. Others were believed lost in the Arabian Sea, but no estimates were available.

Bakhsh said an accurate, updated death toll was not possible given that telephone links to outlying areas had been cut and mobile coverage was not available in others.

In one of the hardest hit areas, the city of Turbat and surrounding villages, the first relief supplies only began arriving some 48 hours after the cyclone hit, sparking the mayor to hand in his resignation and angry residents to protest.

Some residents said they had not eaten anything in two days and also expressed fear of disease from dead animals and polluted water sources.

"We have been saved from the flood but we may die of starvation," said Mohammed Kash, a teacher at a rural school for 150 children, many of whom were crying.

From a helicopter, an Associated Press reporter saw only the tops of palm trees protruding from under vast sheets of water in some areas. In others, people, cows and goats were stranded on rooftops, without water or food and sweltering in 109 degree heat.

"We need tents, food, medicine. All the resources we had are already exhausted. The response from the provincial and government has been poor. In protest I have handed in my resignation," said Abdul Rauf Riand, mayor of the city of some 150,000 people.

He estimated that about 100,000 in the urban area and surrounding villages had been stranded.

Hafiz Tahir, a district officer, said casualties could go over 100 but it would be impossible to determine the death toll until the waters receded.

Wedding party of 50 vanished
One 20-year-old woman, marooned alone in her house for two days, was washed away Thursday and confirmed dead, and Tahir said there was no trace of a wedding party of 50 people, mostly women and children, who were on their way to Turbat when the flooding began.

Officials said two dead bodies were found in the branches of a floating tree north of Turbat.

The army said it had evacuated more than 600 families in the water-ringed city. These included 36 from the rooftop of a mosque who were lifted by harnesses into two hovering helicopters shortly before the roof collapsed.

In a separate rescue operation, 35 Chinese workers at the seaport of Gwadar were ferried to higher ground, said Navy Rear Admiral Mahmood Khan. A number of Chinese have constructed facilities at the port.

Located to the east on the same Arabian Sea coastline, Karachi suffered torrential rains and thunderstorms, which killed at least 228 people Saturday. City authorities continued to grapple with electricity shortages caused by power lines that were snapped by falling trees, pylons and billboards.

Navy warships and helicopters have rescued at least 125 crewmen from floundering craft, the navy and Maritime Security Agency said.

A statement from the army said troops were repairing washed out stretches of the vital coastal highway as well as railway tracks.