Hundreds flee Pakistan floods, as criticism grows (AP)

Aug 5th, 2010 | By worldnews | Category: World

KOT ADDU, Pakistan – Hundreds of people loaded down with possessions were fleeing floods in Pakistan’s most populous province Thursday as the worst monsoon rains in a generation triggered fresh chaos.

Floods have already killed more than 1,500 people in Pakistan over the last week and affected some 3 million others.

They followed the crash of a passenger jet last week close to the capital and have coincided with deadly riots in the country’s largest city, Karachi. On Wednesday, a suicide bomber killed a paramilitary police commander in the northwest, a reminder of the country’s ever-present terror threat.

The government has come under criticism for its handling of the crises. President Asif Ali Zardari, who was already widely unpopular, is currently on a five-day European tour after rejecting calls that he stay at home and direct the flood response.

After causing huge destruction in the northwest, the epicenter of the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban, floodwaters have moved down the country and deluged villages and some urban centers in Punjab, the richest and most populous province. The army used boats and helicopters to move stranded villagers to higher ground.

“We are migrants in our home,” said Ahmad Bakhsh, 56, who fled Sanawan town, which was under water. “Oh God, why have you done this?”

Much of the flooding is from the River Indus, which originates in the Himalayas and travels through the country.

Some of those fleeing were carrying kitchen utensils and pots and pans. Others hoisted children in their arms.

Bakhsh said about 2,000 men, women and children were still waiting for help, though troops have evacuated about 8,000 people.

Maj. Gen. Nadir Zeb, the region’s army commander, said many people had ignored flood warnings and realized the gravity of situation only when floodwater entered their cities, towns and villages.

“They risked their lives, but we are reaching them,” he said.

In the northwest, rescue workers have struggled to deliver aid because of washed-out bridges and roads and downed communication lines. Several foreign countries, including the United States, have stepped in to help. But many flood victims have complained that aid is not reaching them fast enough or at all, expressing anger that could grow as flooding spreads to new areas.

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