06/28/2007, 00.00
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Cyclone hits Balochistan, 22 dead and 250,000 homeless

Mgr Lawrence Saldanha, archbishop of Lahore and chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, offers the Church’s prayers for the victims and their families. Rescue operations are hampered by torrential rain.

Quetta (AsiaNews) - Some 250,000 people were left homeless by a cyclone that lashed the coast of Balochistan and killed 22 people in the province on Wednesday. Torrential rains accompanying Cyclone Yemyeni also inundated dozens of villages and towns in Balochistan and disrupted rail services, communication links and utilities.

“We are sorry and pray for the deaths of many people, may God have mercy on them and on their families” said Mgr Lawrence Saldanha, archbishop of Lahore and chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan.

“We especially sorry and pray for the fishermen who were caught in middle of the ocean and there was no way of escape for them,” he added.

“Although it is natural disaster and we cannot do anything for it but we urge the government to improve the warning system and better rescue efforts”, the archbishop further said.

Among the victims, 12 drowned in flood waters in Kalatuk in Turbat district, four in Gwadar, three in Bolan, two in Dalbandin and one in Noshki. Hundreds of people were also injured in their homes when in roof collapses.

The cyclone and the rain left around 250,000 people homeless, said Khuda Bakhsh Baloch, the relief commissioner of Balochistan.

People in Kech, one of the worst-affected districts, were said to be stranded by the floods on roof tops and trees.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz ordered the immediate airlift of blankets, food, tents and medicine to the affected districts, which were rendered inaccessible by road as the Makran Coastal Highway and RCD Highway had been badly damaged and several bridges washed away. Continuing rain also hampered aid efforts by air.

“People need more assistance. We have relief helicopters ready but the weather is not permitting,” said Balochistan government spokesman Raziq Bugti.

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