Pakistan + 1 more

Pakistani military joins storm rescue effort

By Asim Tanvir

SIBI, Pakistan, June 28 (Reuters) - Pakistan's military joined efforts on Thursday to help up to 900,000 people affected by a cyclone as more rain exacerbated flooding and hampered airborne rescue and relief operations.

Severe weather at the onset of the South Asian rainy season has killed about 400 people in Pakistan and India over recent days and more than 40 people have been killed in floods in Afghanistan.

The cyclone struck Pakistan's southwest Baluchistan province on Tuesday, three days after a storm battered the nation's biggest city, Karachi, killing about 230 people.

The cyclone and subsequent flooding in Baluchistan have killed 25 people, while 12 people were killed on Thursday in a separate deluge in the northwest of the country.

Rising water levels in Baluchistan inundated a fourth district -- Sibi -- on Thursday. Three others were severely flooded, said provincial relief commissioner Khuda Bakhsh Baluch.

"Due to torrential rain a seasonal river has started overflowing and 20 to 25 villages have been inundated. According to our estimates about 15,000 people have been affected," Baluch said.

"In all, roughly, 900,000 people have been affected."

The floods have washed away stretches of road and several bridges, and cut communications and power supplies. Floods also severed a gas pipeline, cutting supplies to the provincial capital, Quetta.

The military sent aircraft -- including 13 helicopters and three C-130 aircraft -- to reinforce civilian rescue and relief operations, although the rain prevented much flying and many areas were still cut off.

An army C-130 and a helicopter had managed to reach Turbat in the southwest of the country near the Iranian border, Baluch said.

Illustrating the conditions facing rescuers, Minister for Communications Shamim Siddiqui was caught in heavy rain while trying to reach the affected area in a helicopter and was forced back to Karachi, the state news agency said.


A region near the Iranian border was also in danger from the Mirani dam where the water had reached a critical level.

"If the rain goes on and the water level rises further we might have to take drastic action. We'd have to breach the dam ourselves to allow an outflow," Baluch said.

The Meteorological Department said scattered rain was expected for the next two to three days.

The military said it had sent a battalion of engineers to the dam while another was repairing a railway line.

Troops had rescued hundreds of marooned families while the navy had rescued two seaman -- a Mexican and an Indian -- who had been adrift at sea for three days, it said.

In India, the second tropical storm in less than two weeks hovered over the Bay of Bengal bringing heavy rain to the coastal states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

Officials said they expected the storm to hit land in the next 24 hours and people were being evacuated.

Four people were killed in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday in landslides caused by rain, taking India's toll to about 155.

Heavy rain in Afghanistan has caused widespread flooding that has killed more than 40 people, destroyed roads and damaged homes and irrigation works, officials and media said.

The Defence Ministry said it evacuated 300 vulnerable people by helicopter while Afghanistan's NATO peacekeepers said they had helped rescue 42 people trapped on rocks by a swollen river.

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider in ISLAMABAD and a Reuters reporter in HYDERABAD, Sayed Salahuddin in KABUL)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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