KARACHI, Pakistan: The death toll from catastrophic flooding in Pakistan continued to climb Saturday, with 57 more people dead, 25 of them children, as the country grapples with rescue and relief operations on an unprecedented scale.
A high-level body set up to coordinate relief efforts, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Baz Sharif, met for the first time in Islamabad on Saturday to assess the disaster.
Record monsoon rains and flooding from melting glaciers in the northern mountains have affected 33 million people and killed at least 1,265 people, including 441 children. Floods blamed on climate change are still spreading.
The rate of child deaths is worrying. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday that “more” children were at risk of dying from disease after the floods.
The impact of climate change on the South Asian nation was underlined by four heatwaves and multiple raging forest fires before floods engulfed a third of the country, the disaster management chief told the high-level meeting.
“2022 presents Pakistan with some stark climate change realities,” Lt. Gen. Akhtar Nawaz, director of the National Disaster Management Agency, said at a briefing by the country’s top leaders.
“We haven’t seen spring this year – we’ve had four heatwaves that have caused massive bushfires across the country,” he said.
Fires were particularly severe in southwestern Balochistan, destroying large swathes of pine nut forests and other vegetation not far from what is now underwater.
Rainfall in Balochistan was 436% more than the 30-year monsoon average.
The meeting was informed that the province had suffered extensive damage, including the washout of major rail and road networks, as well as failures in telecommunications and power infrastructure.
The country received nearly 190 percent more rainfall than the 30-year average for the quarter ending in August, totaling 390.7 mm (15.38 in). Sindh, a province of 50 million people, was the worst hit, with rainfall 464 percent higher than the 30-year average.
Aid has flowed in from multiple countries, with the first humanitarian aid flight from France landing in Islamabad on Saturday morning. But Pakistan’s largest charity said millions were still left without aid and relief work.
Initial estimates put the damage at $10 billion, but investigations are still ongoing with international organizations.
The United Nations has called for $160 million in aid to help tackle what it calls an “unprecedented climate catastrophe” as Pakistan’s navy has moved inland for rescue operations in sea-like areas.