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Floods leave $10bn losses behind, says minister

Ahsan Iqbal says it might take five years to rehabilitate flood victims

The initial economic losses from floods in Pakistan could reach at least $10 billion, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said in an interview on Monday.

Unprecedented and historical flash floods caused by abnormal monsoon rains have washed away roads, crops, infrastructure and bridges, killing at least 1,136 people in recent weeks and affecting more than 33 million. “I think it is going to be huge. So far, (a) very early, preliminary estimate is that it is big, it is higher than $10 billion,” Iqbal said. The minister said it might take five years to rebuild and rehabilitate, and that the country will be facing an acute challenge of food shortage.

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He said that 45% of cotton crops had been washed away in addition to huge damage to vegetables and fruit and rice fields.

“There is damage to almost nearly one million houses,” he said. “People have actually lost their complete livelihood.”

Pakistan has sought international help to deal with the overwhelming floods, and some countries have already sent in supplies and rescue teams. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told Reuters the other day that the country needs financial help to deal with “overwhelming” floods. “I haven’t seen destruction of this scale, I find it very difficult to put into words … it is overwhelming,” he said, adding many crops that provided much of the population’s livelihoods had been wiped out.

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Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo told reporters that the province had suffered more than Rs200 billion ($900 million) worth of damages from more than two months of flooding. “We are facing a lack of financial resources, tents and other relief goods … all major highways have been badly damaged … hampering our relief efforts,” he said, adding that his province needed more help from federal government to cope.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat Valley was largely cut off from the rest of the country due to damaged infrastructure and floodwaters. Local residents said that food and medicine were running out and they had little access to power.

Meanwhile, flash floods wreaked havoc in Qambar-Shahdadkot district of Sindh and water from a broken drain in Balochistan reportedly entered Qubo Saeed Khan. Flood torrents reportedly submerged hundreds of villages and Kachi Pull town in Qambar-Shahdadkot district. Floodwater submerged a portion of Shahdadkot -Khuzdar Motorway. The M-8 motorway had been closed for traffic at Kachi Pull for the past many days following severe floods. Powerful currents of hill torrents in Kachho area of Dadu and parts of Larkana districts submerged the area and increased the pressure on protective dykes. The residents of the area were leaving their homes to move towards safer places to avoid flooding in case of breaches in the protective embankments. On the other hand, the Flood Cell of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Irrigation Department on Monday reported a high-level flood with 300,849 cusecs water flow in Kabul River at Nowshera. According to the cell, the water flow in Indus River at Chashma Canal was recorded at 519,484 cusecs, while at Attock Khairabad it was 509,500 cusecs.

The report said that a medium flood was recorded in Indus River at Jinnah Barrage and in Kabul River at Warsak and Adezai, while in Panjokra River at Lower Dir. Kundia, a remote mountainous tehsil of Kohistan, has also been cut off from rest of the district due to severe damage to road infrastructure by the devastating floods, which are hampering relief operations.

On the other hand, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, talking to a private news channel, said Pakistan will consider importing vegetables from India to mitigate floods’ fallout, as food prices have rocketed significantly.



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