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One-third of Pakistan underwater after ‘apocalyptic’ floods

Efforts are being stepped up to help tens of millions of Pakistanis affected by monsoon rains that have fallen relentlessly since June, submerging a third of the country and killing more than 1,100 people.

The country’s planning and development minister, Ahsan Iqbal, has said that more than €10 billion will be needed to repair the damage and rebuild infrastructure damaged by the floods.

Massive destruction has occurred, “especially in the telecommunications, roads, agriculture and livelihood sectors”, he said.

The rains, “unprecedented in 30 years”, according to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, have destroyed or severely damaged more than a million homes and devastated large swathes of farmland vital to the country’s economy.

The United Nations, together with the Pakistani government, has launched a €160 million appeal to help fund emergency aid.

However, authorities and aid agencies are struggling to speed up the delivery of help to the more than 33 million people, or one in seven Pakistanis, affected by the floods.

The task is difficult because the floodwaters have washed away many roads and bridges, cutting off some areas completely. In the south and west, there is hardly any dry land left and the displaced have to crowd onto high roads or railways to escape the flood plains.

In the northern mountainous areas, authorities are still trying to reach remote villages, which could add to the 1,136 deaths recorded since the monsoon began in June.

‘Apocalyptic conditions’

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate minister, has described the events as “a huge humanitarian disaster” and “apocalyptic”.

The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September, is essential for irrigating crops and replenishing water resources on the Indian subcontinent. 

But it also brings its share of tragedy and destruction every year.

Pakistani officials blame the devastating weather on climate change, saying their country is suffering the consequences of irresponsible environmental practices elsewhere in the world.

“This year has been 53 degrees plus and we’ve been the hottest place on the planet. The glaciers burst, the outburst floods came down three times as much as they do normally. 

“So, we’ve had just a 300% increase. And what we saw is really the result… glacier melting is really the result of global warming”, said Rehman.

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