ISLAMABAD (AP) — Planes carrying fresh supplies are surging across a humanitarian air bridge to flood-ravaged Pakistan as the death toll surged past 1,200, officials said Friday, with families and children at special risk of disease and homelessness.
The ninth flight from the United Arab Emirates and the first from Uzbekistan were the latest to land in Islamabad overnight as a military-backed rescue operation elsewhere in the country reached more of the 3 million people affected by the disaster.
Two more planes from UAE and Qatar with aid will arrive in Pakistan later Friday, and a Turkish train carrying relief goods for flood victims was on its way to the impoverished nation, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Multiple officials have blamed the unusual monsoon and flooding on climate change, including U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who earlier this week called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” through the deadly crisis.
Guterres will visit Pakistan on Sept. 9 to tour flood-hit areas and meet with officials.
Asim Iftikhar, the spokesman at Foreign Ministry, told reporters Thursday that the crisis has lent credibility to climate change warnings from scientists. “This is not a conspiracy, this is a reality and we need to be mindful,” he said.
The U.N. refugee agency said Friday that while the response to a funding appeal earlier this week was “very encouraging,” more help is needed.
UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh said they were quickly releasing tents, as well as blankets, plastic sheets, buckets and other household items for flood victims. “The scale of the devastation that people face is unimaginable,” he said.
The planes brought additional food items, medicine and tents. Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif had planned to travel to UAE on Saturday, but he postponed the trip to visit flood-hit areas at home. A Turkish delegation led by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu met with Sharif to convey condolences over the disaster.
So far, Pakistan has received aid from China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, U.A.E. and some other countries. This week, the United States also announced $30 million worth of aid for the flood victims.
According to initial government estimates, the devastation has caused $10 billion in damage.
Since 1959, Pakistan has emitted less than half of 1% of the world’s heat-trapping carbon dioxide, compared to 21.5% by the United States and 16.4% by China, according to scientists and experts. Pakistani officials and experts say there’s been a 400% increase in average rainfall in some parts of Pakistan, which led to the extreme flooding.
Earlier this week, the United Nations and Pakistan jointly issued an appeal for $160 million in emergency funding to help the 3.3 million people affected by the floods, which have damaged over 1 million homes.
On Friday, authorities were warning people in the district of Dadu in the southern Sindh province to move to safer places ahead of floodwater from the swollen Indus river that’s expected to hit the region this week.
In May, some parts of Sindh were the hottest place in Pakistan. Now people are facing floods there that have caused an outbreak of waterborne diseases. Although flood waters continued to recede in most of the country, many districts in Sindh remained underwater.
Farah Naureen, the director for Pakistan at the international aid agency Mercy Corps, told The Associated Press that around 73,000 women will be giving birth within the next month, and they needed skilled birth attendants, privacy, and birth facilities. Otherwise, she said, the survival of the mother and the newborn will be at risk.
The military said rescuers, backed by troops, resumed operations early Friday. They are using boats and helicopters to evacuate people from remote regions and to deliver aid.
Since mid-June, floods have also killed more than 700,000 goats, cows, and buffaloes and damaged crops. Pakistan’s government has been forced to import vegetables to avoid shortages. Pakistan is also in contact with Russia to import wheat.