Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have been ordered to evacuate their homes as flood waters threaten several cities in the south of the country.
The flood surge, after weeks of monsoon rains, has breached embankments on the Indus River, inundating villages and swamping vast areas of farmland. Parts of Pakistan have been described as resembling an inland sea.
After threats from Pakistan’s Taliban, the UN is reviewing security for its aid workers helping flood victims.
A US official said militants planned to attack foreigners delivering aid to the millions of people affected by the devastating floods.
One Taliban spokesman told Associated Press that the presence of foreign aid workers was “unacceptable”. However, there have been no attacks since the humanitarian crisis unfolded.
The UN says more than 17 million people have been affected by the floods, and about 1.2 million homes have been destroyed, leaving five million people homeless.
The floods started in the mountainous north and have steadily surged south, damaging an estimated 3.2 million hectares (7.9 million acres) of farmland – about 14% of Pakistan’s land under cultivation according to the UN’s food agency.
The remaining residents of Shahdadkot, originally a town of 300,000 people, have been warned to leave as floodwaters approach. Many people have already left the town, in northern Sindh province.
“Shahdadkot is certainly in danger,” said Sindh official Riaz Ahmed Soomro. “People had built an artificial embankment but the pressure is increasing.”
The BBC’s Chris Morris reports from Shahdadkot that as a breach nearby widened, a series of fields rapidly filled up, taking on the appearance of an inland sea. Another embankment was breached in the Kot Almo area of Sindh province, forcing thousands of people in the southern Thatta district to flee from their homes.
Further downstream, about 400,000 people have been told to evacuate the towns of Sujawal, Mir Pur Batoro and Daro.
“Evacuation in those areas is ongoing but we have issued another warning for the remaining people to leave as well,” Saleh Farooqi, director general of the National Disaster Management Agency’s Sindh office, told the Reuters news agency.
A US official said threats from the Pakistani Taliban to carry out attacks against foreign aid workers in Pakistan highlighted the group’s “destructive, bankrupt vision”.
White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer contrasted the threats of the militants with the “strength of the Pakistani people” trying to recover from the floods and the aid agencies seeking to support them.
“The commitment of the humanitarian organisations… is an example for all of how humanity should be the first and only concern when facing such a tragic disaster,” he said. “Their dedication and initiative, under the most challenging circumstances, is particularly striking in contrast to the future that some, like the Tehrik-e Taliban (TTP), clearly have in mind for Pakistan.”
The UN has said it would work with other international organisations to assess the risks.
Pakistan has been battling militants in its north-west along the border with Afghanistan and has suffered major bombing attacks in many of its biggest cities.
About $325m of the $459m sought by the UN in a flash appeal had been either contributed of pledged by foreign donors, while an additional $600m has been provided or promised outside the appeal, the UN’s emergency relief co-ordinator, John Holmes said on Thursday.
“We’re approaching $1 billion with funds offered or already contributed inside and outside the appeal for this crisis,” he told reporters. “That’s a reasonable response, but we certainly need more.”
The International Monetary Fund, which has a $11bn loan programme with Pakistan, said the group was “looking at all options” to help.
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