Cholera, snakes threaten Pakistan flood victims

A flood victim wades through floodwater in Turbat
A flood victim wades through floodwater in Turbat, west of Karachi, on Monday. Str/pakistan / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Some 1 million people left homeless by massive flooding are facing threats to their lives such as a potential cholera outbreak and poisonous snakes slithering through the muddy waters, relief officials said Tuesday.

Floods due to a cyclone and rain since June 23 have left as many as 211 people dead in two provinces of southern Pakistan, a senior relief official said Monday, but unofficial estimates are considerably higher.

An assessment by five foreign aid agencies described a growing number of skin and stomach ailments among the victims in Baluchistan province, many of whom were living under an open sky and drinking polluted water from rivers.

'Bad smell' in villages
"Some of the villages where we went yesterday had a bad smell. We learned a lot of livestock is buried under that mud. This is particularly dangerous because of the potential for it to lead to a cholera outbreak," said Gul Wali Khan of Catholic Relief Services in a statement.

In neighboring Sindh province, waters from the Qabbo Canal broke through protective embankments and inundated areas as far away as 16 miles, said provincial relief commissioner Anwar Haider.

Two people were in serious condition after being bitten by poisonous snakes forced out of their normal habitats by the rising waters, he said.

Cases of diarrhea, skin allergies and water-borne diseases were rising in the Qambar-Shahdadkot district of the province where the canal's waters had displaced some 30,000 people, Haider said.

Pakistan has called on the international community to rush aid to the victims while its military continued to airlift relief supplies to isolated communities.

Monsoon brings death
Some 500 people have died across the subcontinent -- in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan -- since the start of the monsoon season in early June.

epa01053621 Flood victims collect their belongings to higher grounds after massive rains caused floods in the district of Naseerabad in the flood-hit Balochistan province, Pakistan, 02 July 2007. Pakistan is currently experiencing a harsh spell of monsoon rains which has caused floods and massive destruction and effected more than 800,000 people. EPA/MUSA FARMANMusa Farman / EPA

"Some of the community members are living under an open sky, under the shade of trees. There are many clouds and the rains have started. The people who are in the open are completely exposed to the rain. And now we are expecting the monsoon to be starting," said Khan.

The agencies planned to provide plastic sheets and bamboo poles for temporary shelter since tents were unsuitable in the extreme summer heat.

Oxfam, Save the Children, Concern, and Church World Service were also involved in the assessment.