ISLAMABAD: The death toll from Pakistan’s floods, which have officially claimed 1,600 lives, will rise as waters recede and the number of missing are counted, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said on Friday.
The country’s worst-ever natural disaster has affected more than 17 million around the country, with more than eight million dependent on aid as rescue operations continue to evacuate swathes of the south still under threat.
Since the floods began a month ago, triggered by monsoon rains, the death toll has risen a little from an early estimate of 1,500 people, but that is likely to change “significantly” once the seasonal rains end, said a spokeswoman for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
“There will be a rise... a significant rise because we will be in a position to find more bodies after flood water recedes,” Amal Masud told a news agency.
“There will be quite a number of missing people but it will not be as alarming when we compare it with the 2005 earthquake,” which killed 73,000, she said.
Of the 1,600 confirmed dead, 1,086 people were killed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 183 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 109 in Sindh, 103 in Punjab, 71 in Azad Kashmir and 48 in Balochistan.
Flooding has affected 20 per cent of the country’s land mass, including huge areas of rich farming pastures on which Pakistan’s struggling economy depends. Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the number who died as a direct result of the floods was relatively limited because most people were evacuated or managed to escape.
“But that does not mean that the death toll over the longer-term would not be a concern because many more people risk dying in a second-wave of death,” he said, referring to the threat posed by water-borne diseases. “The most vulnerable are certainly already dying because of the floods and we don’t have estimates on that. I think it will take some time before we have consolidated figures on mortality.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2010.
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