Parts of Pakistan seemed “like a sea," Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Wednesday, after visiting some of the flood-hit areas that cover as much as a third of the South Asian nation, where 18 more deaths took the toll from days of rain to 1,343.
As many as 33 million of a population of 220 million have been affected in a disaster blamed on climate change that has left hundreds of thousands homeless and caused losses of at least $10 billion, officials estimate.
“You wouldn’t believe the scale of destruction there,” Sharif told reporters after a visit to the southern province of Sindh. “It is water everywhere as far as you could see. It is just like a sea.”
Another 18 people, including eight children, have died in the past 24 hours, according to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority. The death toll now stands at 1,343 from the floods, which were brought by record monsoon rains and glacier melt in Pakistan’s northern mountains.
The government, which has boosted cash handouts for flood victims to 70 billion Pakistani rupees ($313.9 million), will buy 200,000 tents to house displaced families, he added.
The United Nations has called for $160 million in aid to help the flood victims.
Many of those affected are from Sindh, where Pakistan’s largest freshwater lake is dangerously close to bursting its banks, even after having been breached in an operation that displaced 100,000 people.
Local authorities have been trying to perform a controlled release of water by creating artificial breaches in the lake’s retaining walls. but the water in Lake Manchar overflowed at two separate locations Tuesday, inundating nearby villages in the Jamshoro and Dadu districts, according to officials.
Footage sent to NBC News by a local official in Dadu on Wednesday showed a highway inundated by waters and what appeared to be a truck that had fallen on its side.
Officials in Sindh expect the waters to recede in the next few days, provincial government spokesman Murtaza Wahab said.
“Our strategy right now is to be prepared for wheat cultivation as soon as the water recedes,” he added.
But receding waters threaten a new challenge in the form of waterborne infectious diseases, Sharif said. And with more rain expected in the coming month, the situation could worsen further.
Pakistan has received nearly 190% more rain than the 30-year average in July and August, totaling 15.4 inches (391 mm), with Sindh getting 466% more rain than the average.