Pakistan has appealed to the international community for an “immense humanitarian response” to devastating flooding that has killed at least 1,265 people.
Federal Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal called for an “immense humanitarian response for 33 million people” affected by monsoon rains that triggered the floods.
The request came as planes carried supplies to the impoverished country across a humanitarian air bridge.
International attention to Pakistan’s plight has increased as the number of deaths and homeless have risen. According to initial government estimates, the rain and flooding have caused $10bn in damage.
“The scale of devastation is massive and requires an immense humanitarian response for 33 million people. For this I appeal to my fellow Pakistanis, Pakistan expatriates and the international community to help Pakistan in this hour of need,” he said at a news conference on Saturday.
Multiple officials and experts have blamed the unusual monsoon rains and flooding on climate change, including United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who earlier this week called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” through the deadly crisis. He will visit Pakistan on September 9 to tour flood-hit areas and meet officials.
Earlier this week, the UN and Pakistan jointly issued an appeal for $160m in emergency funding to help the millions of people affected by the floods, which have damaged more than one million homes.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), in its latest report on Saturday, counted 57 more deaths from flood-affected areas. That brought the total death toll since monsoon rains began in mid-June to 1,265, including 441 children.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s earlier appeal for aid received a quick response from the international community, which sent planes loaded with relief goods.
A French aircraft carrying relief goods landed in Islamabad on Saturday and was received by Minister for National Health Services Abdul Qadir Patel.
That French plane’s arrival followed the ninth flight from the United Arab Emirates and the first from Uzbekistan. Those flights were the latest to land in Islamabad overnight.
Patel said the relief goods sent by France included medicine and large dewatering pumps to reduce water levels. He said France has also sent a team of doctors and experts.
Pakistan has established a National Flood Response and Coordination Centre to distribute the arriving aid among the affected population. Iqbal is supervising the army-led centre.
The minister said rains this monsoon season have lashed most areas of Balochistan and Sindh provinces as well as parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces. The Gilgit-Baltistan territory was also affected. Torrential rains and subsequent flash floods caused massive damage to infrastructure, roads, electricity and communications networks.
Iqbal said the government is working to bring normalcy back to the country as soon as possible but that the Pakistani government cannot do it alone.
Major General Zafar Iqbal, head of the flood response centre, said in the news conference that over the last four days, 29 planes loaded with relief goods arrived in Pakistan from Turkey, the UAE, China, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Turkmenistan and other countries.
Military spokesman Major General Iftikhar Babar said rescuers supported by the military were continuing rescue and relief operations. He said army aviation, air force and navy troops were using boats and helicopters to evacuate people from remote regions and to deliver aid.
Babar said the army has established 147 relief camps sheltering and feeding more than 50,000 displaced people while 250 medical camps have provided help to 83,000 people so far.
Health officials have expressed concern about the spread of water-borne diseases among the displaced people living in relief camps and in tents alongside roads.
NDMA chief Lieutenant General Akhtar Nawaz said areas of the country expected to receive 15-20 percent additional rains this year actually received in excess of 400 percent more. Collectively, the country has seen 190 percent more rain this monsoon season.
The US military’s Central Command has said it will send an assessment team to Islamabad to see what support it can provide. The United States announced $30m worth of aid for the flood victims earlier this week.
Two members of Congress, Sheila Jackson and Tom Suzy, were expected to arrive in Pakistan on Sunday to visit the flood-affected areas and meet officials.