08/09/2010, 00.00
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Pakistan to spend billions to recover from flood disaster

Alone, the country cannot cope with the disaster. Prime Minister Gilani appeals to the world for help. Floodwaters continue downstream as the death toll rises. More and more villages find themselves under water, whilst the number of refugees without food and drinking goes up. People clash with police.
Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pakistan will need billions of dollars to recover from its worst floods in history, the United Nations said. In the meantime, the emergency continues with thousands of people still waiting to be evacuating from areas at risk. Currently, the number of refugees stands at 15 million. The death toll has topped 1,500 but is expected to get worse.

“The emergency phase will require hundreds of millions of dollars and the recovery and reconstruction part will require billions of dollars,” United Nations special envoy Jean-Maurice Ripert.

Entire villages have been wiped out, submerged by the waters. Roads and other infrastructures have suffered a similar fate. Farmland has been devastated. No one dares estimate the time it will take to provide refugees new houses and jobs.

In Punjab, the country’s breadbasket, at least 570,000 hectares of crops were destroyed.

The prices of basic items such as tomatoes, onions, potatoes and squash have in some cases quadrupled in recent days, putting them out of reach for many Pakistanis.

This is a major blow to Islamabad, already faced with huge debts and dependant on international economic aid.

And the waters keep coming. The Indus River overflowed its banks near the city of Sukkur in Sindh on Sunday, submerging the village of Mor Khan Jatoi with chest-high water, destroying many of its 1,500 mud houses.

Yesterday Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appealed to the international community for more help. “We will exhaust our resources to rescue, provide food, medicine and shelter, but it is beyond our capacity, so we will appeal to the world,” Gilani said.

At the same time, ordinary Pakistanis are increasingly frustrated with the slowness and inadequacies of government actions two weeks into the emergency.

Refugees from Sukkur complain that they had to wait for a long time on higher ground without food or shelter.

In some refugee centres, people have protested for the lack of food and drinking water. When police tried to break up the demonstration, they were stoned.

People from rural areas continue to flee their villages, leaving behind homes, travelling on donkey carts or on foot, with whatever little they can carry.

Death also continues to reap its harvest. In two villages in the Gilgit-Baltistan area, landslides triggered by heavy rains killed at least 53 people.

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