PAKISTAN — Nearly half a million people are crammed into camps after losing their homes in widespread flooding, and the climate minister warned on Monday that Pakistan is on the “frontline” of the global climate crisis after unprecedented monsoon rains battered the country since mid-June and had killed more than 1,130 people.
The rain stopped more than two days ago and flooding has receded in some areas. But Pakistanis in many parts of the country were still wading through water that was filling their homes or covering their city streets as they struggled to deal with the damage to homes and businesses.
In one of the worst single incidents of the floods, at least 11 people were killed on Monday when a boat carrying volunteer rescuers to evacuate two dozen people capsized in the flood-swollen waters of the Indus River near the southern city of Bilawal Pur. media reported. An unknown number was still missing from the capsize.
Climate Secretary Sherry Rehman and meteorologists told The Associated Press that new monsoons are expected in September. The monsoons have hit earlier and harder than usual since the start of the summer, officials say — most recently with massive rains over the past week affecting nearly the entire country.
Pakistan is used to monsoon rains and floods, Rehman said, but not like this.
“What we’ve seen recently in the last eight weeks is relentless cascades of torrential rain that have never before been matched by a monsoon,” she said.
The torrential rains are the latest in a series of disasters that Rehman says is being exacerbated by climate change, including heat waves, wildfires and glacial lake outbursts. The damage reflects how poorer countries often pay the price for climate change, which is largely caused by developed nations.
Since 1959, Pakistan has been responsible for only 0.4% of the world’s historical CO2 emissions. The US accounts for 21.5%, China 16.5% and the EU 15%.
“Climate knows no borders and its effects are being felt disproportionately,” Rehman said. “If you see lows coming out of the Bay of Bengal, they hit us before anyone does. So we are on the front line of a global crisis.”
The National Disaster Management Authority said flooding this summer has killed more than 1,136 people and injured 1,636 and damaged 1 million homes. At least 498,000 people in the country with 220 million inhabitants are in aid camps after their displacement, it said. Many more displaced people are believed to be living with relatives, friends or away from home.
International aid began to flow to Pakistan, and the military helped distribute aid to remote areas and evacuate those who had lost their homes. Authorities began a long effort to rebuild roads and restore railroads. The floods destroyed more than 150 bridges and washed away numerous roads, making rescue operations difficult.
In the southeastern town of Shikar Pur, not far from the Indus River, Rehan Ali was digging bricks out of the collapsed walls of his home, which was almost completely destroyed by lashing storms and torrential waters. His family’s belongings were scattered outside.
The 24-year-old worker said he would not be able to rebuild without government help and is now unable to work because of the unrest. “I don’t even have anything to feed my family. I lost everything. I don’t know where to go. God help me,” he said.
Arif Ullah, an official with Pakistan’s weather agency, told the AP that more rain will hit parts of Pakistan next month.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said Monday the rains were the heaviest Pakistan has seen in three decades.
“I’ve seen floods everywhere in the last few days and today,” Sharif said in the north-eastern city of Charsadda. About 180,000 people in the city were evacuated after the Swat River burst its banks and flooded nearby communities.
Sharif said the government will provide shelter to all those who have lost their homes.
But many of those displaced have not only lost their homes, but also crops and businesses.
“I am in a tent with my family and how can I go to work? Even if I go looking for a job, who will give me a job because there is water everywhere,” Rehmat Ullah asked a flood victim in Charsadda.
Zarina Bibi said soldiers evacuated her by boat. She burst into tears as she recounted how her house collapsed in the floods.
“We got a tent and food from soldiers and volunteers,” she said. “The flood will subside soon, but we don’t have the money to rebuild our house.”
At least 6,500 soldiers were deployed to help and authorities said they were using military planes, helicopters, trucks and boats to evacuate people from stranded people and bring them aid.
However, many displaced people complained that they were still waiting for help. Some said they had tents but no food.
Pakistani authorities say this year’s devastation is worse than 2010, when floods killed 1,700 people. General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s military chief, said Sunday his country could take years to recover. He appealed to Pakistanis living abroad to donate generously to the flood victims.
Cargo planes from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates began international aid delivery and landed in Islamabad on Sunday with tents, food and other daily necessities. The United Nations launched an international appeal for the victims of the floods in Pakistan on Tuesday in Islamabad.
The flood disaster has hit Pakistan at a time when the country is facing one of its worst economic crises and has narrowly avoided a default. Later Monday, the International Monetary Fund board approved the release of a long-awaited $1.17 billion to Pakistan, Pakistan’s Information Minister Maryam Aurangez told the AP. The announcement was a great relief for the country.
Pakistan and the IMF originally signed the bailout deal in 2019, but the release of a $1.17 billion tranche had been on hold since earlier this year when the IMF raised concerns about Pakistan’s compliance with the terms of the deal expressed under the government of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Last week, the United Nations issued a statement that it had allocated $3 million to UN agencies and their partners in Pakistan to respond to the floods, and that money will go towards health, nutrition, food security and water and sanitation uses flood-affected areas, with a focus on those most at risk.
Associated Press writers Mohammad Farooq in Shikar Pur and Riaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this story.
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