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$10bn of damage in flood-ravaged Pakistan as international aid arrives

Unprecedented flash floods across the country have affected 33 million Pakistanis, damaged nearly 1 million homes and killed at least 1061 people.

August 29, 2022
By Asif Shahzad and Munir Ahmed
29 August 2022

Early estimates put the damage from Pakistan’s deadly floods at more than $10 billion, its planning minister says adding that the world has an obligation to help the South Asian nation cope with the effects of man-made climate change.

International aid has begun to arrive in the stricken nation, as the military and volunteers desperately tried to evacuate many thousands stranded by widespread flooding driven by “monster monsoons” that have claimed more than 1000 lives this summer.

The unprecedented flash floods washed away roads, crops, infrastructure and bridges, killing at least 1,000 people in recent weeks and affecting more than 33 million.

“I think it is going to be huge. So far, (a) very early, preliminary estimate is that it is big, it is higher than $10 billion,” Ahsan Iqbal said.

This combination of March 24 and Aug. 28, 2022 photos shows a village and fields in Rajanpur, Pakistan, in the aftermath of flooding. (Maxar Technologies via AP)

“So far we have lost 1,000 human lives. There is damage to almost nearly one million houses,” Iqbal said at his office.

“People have actually lost their complete livelihood.”

Pakistan confronts acute food shortages

The minister said it might take five years to rebuild and rehabilitate the nation of 200 million people, while in the near term it will be confronted with acute food shortages.

To mitigate the shortage, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said the country could consider importing vegetables from arch-rival India.

The neighbouring countries have not had any trade for a long time.

“We can consider importing vegetables from India,” Ismail told local Geo News TV, adding other sources for food imports included Turkey and Iran.

Food prices have already shot up due to flooded crops and impassable roads.

Social media users posted videos showing stranded people and whole families washed away by floodwater. Reuters was unable to independently verify such footage.

The nation’s foreign ministersaid he hoped financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund would provide financial aid, taking the economic cost of the floods into account.

However, Iqbal said any formal requests for financial help would need to wait until the scale of the damage was known, something Pakistan was now evaluating with partners, including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

He also said the world owed Pakistan, which was a victim of climate change caused by “irresponsible development of the developed world.”

“Our carbon footprint is lowest in the world,” he said. “The international community has a responsibility to help us, upgrade our infrastructure, to make our infrastructure more climate resilient, so that we don’t have such losses every three, four, five years.”

Iqbal said 45 per cent of cotton crops had been washed away with early wheat sowing in southern Pakistan also affected, as large swaths of land remained inundated with flood water, and severe damage to rice fields as well as vegetable and fruit crops.

Southern Sindh and southwestern Balochistan provinces have been hit the hardest by the floods that swept through farmland and towns, with large parts of both and northern Pakistan districts cut off for many days from the rest of the country.

Aid planes arrive carrying supplies

Frontier constabularies load food to a helicopter for flood-affected people, in Swat valley, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Naveed Ali)

Cargo planes from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates began the international rush to assist the impoverished nation, landing in Islamabad carrying tents, food and other daily necessities.

They were among the nations that pledged to help Pakistan tackle the devastating floods after officials called for international help.

So far, exceptionally heavy monsoon rains that triggered flash floods across the country have affected 33 million Pakistanis, damaged nearly 1 million homes and killed at least 1061 people.

Pakistani authorities say this year’s devastation is worse than in 2010, when floods killed 1700 people. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the country’s military chief, said his country may take years to recover.

Last week, the United Nations in a statement said that it has allocated $3 million for UN aid agencies and their partners in Pakistan to respond to the floods and this money will be used for health, nutrition, food security, and water and sanitation services in flood-affected areas, focusing on the most vulnerable.

According to scientists and Sherry Rehman, a Pakistani senator and the country’s climate minister, Pakistan suffered heavier rains this year mainly because of climate change, which also caused fire in forests this year.

However, critics say Pakistan’s government has hardly any interest in building new dams and water reservoirs.

The unprecedented monsoon season has affected all four of the country’s provinces. Floods have destroyed more than 150 bridges and numerous roads have been washed away, making rescue operations difficult.

The government has deployed at least 6500 soldiers to help civilian authorities in rescue and relief operations across the country. Prime Minister Shabaz Sharif on Monday was visiting various flood-damaged areas in the country’s northwest.

Sharif has said the government would provide housing to all those who lost their homes.

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