Floodwaters sweep towards two more Pakistan towns
SUJAWAL, Pakistan - Floodwaters swept towards two small southern Pakistani towns Tuesday as authorities managed to finally plug a breach in defences across the Indus river at nearby Thatta city.
Pakistani troops and city workers had been battling over the weekend to save Thatta, with most of the population of 300,000 fleeing the advancing waters.
"Thatta city has been declared safe after a breach in the river caused by floods at nearby Faqir Jo Goth village was fully plugged," senior city official Hadi Bakhsh Kalhoro told AFP.
But he said the fast-moving waters that left the low-lying town of Sujawal submerged on Sunday were now threatening the towns of Jati and Choohar Jamali, where official warnings have been issued to residents to evacuate.
"We are making efforts to save the two towns which have a combined population of more than 100,000," Kalhoro said, adding most had already left for safer spots.
Most people had already returned to Thatta, he said, on the western bank of the swollen Indus.
But inundated Sujawal was mostly empty on Tuesday, as water flowed down its streets and troops offloaded rubber boats from their vehicles to rescue the remaining few, an AFP reporter on the scene said.
Sindh government spokesman Jameel Soomro told AFP that 147 people had been killed in the province, mostly as a result of disease triggered by the floods, and mostly women and children.
Torrential monsoon rains have triggered massive floods that have moved steadily from north to south over the past month, engulfing a fifth of the volatile country and affecting 17 million of Pakistan's 167 million people.
Southern Sindh is the worst-affected province, with 19 of its 23 districts ravaged as floodwaters have swollen the raging Indus river to 40 times its usual volume.
One million people have been displaced over the past few days alone.
Eight million people have been left dependent on aid for their survival and floods have washed away huge swathes of the rich farmland on which the country's struggling economy depends.
India on Tuesday offered another 20 million dollars in flood aid to Pakistan, boosting efforts to build goodwill between the estranged neighbours.
Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna told parliament a fresh instalment of 20 million dollars would boost India's total aid contributions for Pakistan to 25 million dollars.
"As a more concrete assessment of the damage inflicted by this natural disaster and the urgent needs of the people of Pakistan emerges, government has decided to increase its assistance to Pakistan from five million dollars," he said.
Pakistan's government has confirmed 1,645 people dead and 2,479 injured but officials warn that millions are at risk from food shortages and disease.
The UN has warned that 800,000 people in desperate need of aid have been cut off by the deluge across the country and appealed for more helicopters to deliver supplies to those reachable only by air.
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