New flood threats as aid tops €630m

THE world has given or pledged more than $800 million (€630m) to help Pakistan cope with massive floods, the foreign minister said as a surging river in the south led authorities to urge thousands more people to evacuate.

Pakistan is grateful for the international assistance, which came after the United Nations appealed for $460m (€362m) in aid for the deluged country, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.

“In these circumstances, when the West and Europe and America are going through a recession ... this kind of solidarity for Pakistan, I think, is very encouraging.”

The floods began last month in the north-west after exceptionally heavy monsoon rains, expanding rivers that have since swamped eastern Punjab province and Sindh province in the south. The deluge has affected about one-fifth of Pakistan’s territory, straining the civilian government as it also struggles against al Qaida and Taliban violence.

At least six million people have been made homeless and 20 million affected overall.

Aid flowed relatively slowly to Pakistan in the first weeks of the crisis, apparently in part because many countries were unaware of the vast scope of the damage despite the relatively low death toll of around 1,500 people.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also urged nations to step up aid after a visit to Pakistan.

But still the floods are wreaking havoc.

Three towns in the southern Sindh province’s Thatta district were in danger this weekend, and officials were urging thousands to leave the area. The surge in the Indus River is expected to empty into the Arabian Sea.

At least two levees along the river are potential trouble spots and are being strengthened, said Hadi Bakhsh Kalhoro, an official with the Sindh provincial Disaster Management Authority.

“We are hopeful the flood will pass on to the delta without creating much trouble here,” he said.

Pakistan can ill afford the crisis. Its economy was already being kept afloat by billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund, and the cost of rebuilding after the floods will likely run into the billions.

The IMF said it will meet with Pakistani officials this week to discuss the floods and what the country must do to cope. “The IMF stands with Pakistan at this difficult time and will do its part to help the country,” said Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department.

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