A massive rescue operation is underway today in Pakistan, which is facing unprecedented floods that have already killed at least 1,061 people, as international aid slowly begins to arrive.
More than 33 million people, or one in seven Pakistanis, have been affected by the floods and nearly a million homes have been destroyed or severely damaged, according to the government.
According to the latest tally by the national disaster management authority (NDMA), at least 1,061 people have lost their lives since the start of the monsoon season in June, with 28 killed in the last 24 hours.
Authorities are still trying to reach isolated villages in mountainous areas in northern Pakistan, meaning the toll could get even heavier.
The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September, is essential for irrigating crops and replenishing the water resources of the Indian subcontinent. But with it, almost every year, comes many tragedies and disasters.
Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman called it this year’s “monsoon – monster of the decade” phenomenon.
She warned on Sunday that global warming is causing glaciers in the north of the country to melt faster than normal, exacerbating the effects of heavy rainfall. Pakistan has the most glaciers, 7,532, than any other region of the world with the exception of the poles.
This makes the country one of the most exposed to extreme weather events linked to climate change, said Simon Bradshaw of the Climate Council odf Australia, and is hit by “a series of weather disasters such as drought and floods”.
This year’s floods in Pakistan can be compared to those of 2010, a year in which 2,000 people lost their lives and almost a fifth of the country was under water.
The NDMA pointed out that more than 800,000 acres of arable land has been destroyed, as have more than 3,400 kilometers of roads, while 157 bridges have been washed away.
The Indus River is now in danger of overflowing as it is fed by dozens of smaller rivers and streams that have their sources in the mountains of northern Pakistan.
Most of Sindh province is now under water, making it difficult for rescuers working under the supervision of the Pakistani army.
“There is no landing zone or approach available (…) it is difficult for our pilots to land,” said a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Army helicopters also struggle to reach people in danger in northern Pakistan or provide humanitarian aid, as the region is characterized by high mountains and deep valleys, which make flying conditions dangerous.
Many torrents have overflowed in this area, which is also popular with tourists, destroying dozens of buildings. Among them a 150-room hotel, which was demolished by the rushing waters.
The government has declared a state of emergency and asked for help from the international community.
Yesterday Sunday, the first flights carrying humanitarian aid from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates arrived.