Pakistan floods: Rain brings more misery

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BBC's Orla Guerin: "They want to get the aid in, and the people out"

Poor weather is bringing more misery to Pakistan as authorities battle to contain record flooding, with yet more heavy rain forecast.

Rain is falling in parts of the north and east, with villages badly damaged and crops destroyed in fertile Punjab.

Meanwhile bloated rivers are carrying the floodwaters south.

Many of the displaced are openly and angrily asking why President Asif Ali Zardari is on a visit to the UK such a time of crisis, correspondents say.

At a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told ministers to speed up relief efforts, the AFP news agency reported.

The army insists it has mounted an effective rescue operation and says aid is now reaching those hit by the floods.

But thousands of displaced living in makeshift camps are still waiting for food and water - and say they do not expect it to come from the government but private individuals from neighbouring districts.

About 1,500 people are feared to have died and aid agencies say some three million have been affected by the flooding.

'Breadbasket' hit

The rain is still falling in several parts of Pakistan and BBC Weather forecasters suggest it will continue over the next few days, before a predicted let-up at the weekend.

The rain is further swelling rivers, bringing flood torrents towards the south of Pakistan, which had until now been spared the worst of the damage.

In the populous eastern province of Punjab - known as Pakistan's "breadbasket" for its rich agriculture - hundreds of villages have been ravaged by floodwaters, the Associated Press reports.

The army has used boats and helicopters to evacuate stranded villagers to higher ground.

Military spokesman Maj Gen Nadir Zeb said on Wednesday that at least 30,000 people had been rescued from Kot Addu and nearby areas in Punjab over the previous 72 hours - but he warned that more evacuations would be necessary given the forecasts for more rain.

"People must co-operate with us, and they must leave those areas where floods are going to hit," he said, according to AP.

As the massive volume of water moves south, there are fears about crucial hydroelectric power stations being critically damaged and dams bursting.

In the flood-hit areas of the north-east, emergency services here say far more people have been stranded than previously thought.

Many of those displaced by the floods are still waiting for contact from the official aid operation or politicians.

Local Islamic charities have been stepping into the breach, with unconfirmed reports that they include some with links to militant groups.

Where some aid has arrived, large crowds have gathered and the aid dispersal is chaotic, causing a lot of frustration, correspondents say.

'Let down'

Pakistan's opposition leader Nawaz Sharif heaped more pressure on President Zardari as he added his voice to criticism over the president's trip to Europe this week.

The visit comes amid a diplomatic row with London over remarks by the UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Zardari is not expected home until he has launched his son's political career on Saturday in the British city of Birmingham.

"We have been let down very badly by Mr Zardari. We have been let down more by him than the statement by David Cameron," Mr Sharif was quoted as saying by AFP.

Mr Sharif also criticised the government's response to the crisis.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in north-west Pakistan says millions of dollars of international aid - from China, the US, the UK and the United Nations - is arriving in the country. But he says that so many are affected that the aid figures seem small.

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