South Asia

Floodwaters in south Pakistan 'begin to recede'

Pakistanis displaced by flooding take shelter on the higher ground of an embankment near the flooded Indus River, outside Thatta, Sindh Province - 29 August 2010
Image caption Millions of people are homeless and need emergency aid

Emergency officials in Pakistan say water levels in flood-stricken southern Pakistan are beginning to recede.

They warned, however, that water levels on the southern reaches of the Indus River were still "exceptionally high".

The floods, triggered by torrential monsoon rains in the north-west, have moved south through the country, submerging towns and farmland.

More than 1,600 people have died and about six million are homeless after Pakistan's worst flooding.

In total, about 17 million of Pakistan's 166 million people have been affected by the disaster.

'Need to be watchful'

The danger of flooding remained high, but levels were beginning to drop as the surge of water that had been flowing north-south across Pakistan reached the Arabian Sea, said Hadi Baksh, an emergency official in southern Sindh province.

"In the coming days, the towns and villages will be out of flood danger," he said.

Pakistan's meteorological department said water inflows at the Kotri barrage were receding but that the Indus River there would "continue in exceptionally high flood level" for another day.

Weather official Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry said: "We believe that it will take another 10 to 12 days for rivers in Sindh to come to normal flow. Therefore we need to be watchful."

The town of Thatta, downstream from the Kotri barrage, was hastily evacuated as the swollen Indus breached an embankment.

A major inundation was avoided thanks to the hasty rebuilding of levees around the town, said Mr Baksh, and people were beginning to return to their homes.

But on the other side of the river, the town of Sujawal was submerged.

Almost the entire population managed to evacuate the town, however.

"We estimate that there are still up to 400 people in Sujawal and the surrounding villages and they are being rescued by boats," Mr Baksh said.

Aid effort

A month after the floods began, the effort is still focused on the first stage of relief, rescuing and evacuating people.

Many people remain cut off by vast lakes and desperately need shelter, food and clean water.

About 72,000 children were already affected by severe malnutrition, UN officials said.

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Media captionBBC's Jill McGivering: "Every day we hear that new areas are affected"

There is a risk too of the spread of disease as the floods ebb, leaving behind large pools of stagnant water.

But relief agencies have warned that unless reconstruction begins immediately, Pakistan will face devastating problems.

The UN's World Food Programme estimates that the floods have damaged about 14% of the country's cultivated land. With damage to crops estimated at almost $3bn (£1.9bn), the country will need help feeding its population for some time.

The government has announced incentives for farmers in Punjab and the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where floodwaters have receded, to get on with the winter sowing season, says the BBC's Ilyas Khan in Islamabad.

Muslim nations have donated nearly $1bn (£640m) to help Pakistan, said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Other nations have also pledged hundreds of millions of dollars, but officials say it will take many billions for Pakistan to recover from the disaster.

If you would like to make a donation to help people affected by the floods in Pakistan, you can find information about how to do so by clicking here.

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