8 Aug 2010

Red alert as Pakistan floods surge downstream

10:17 am on 8 August 2010

A red alert has been issued in Pakistan as the floodwaters that caused devastation in the north-west of the country surge downstream.

More than half a million people have already been moved from their homes in the province of Sindh and the evacuation is continuing, assisted by the army and the navy.

Hundreds of villages along the Indus River have been inundated, the BBC reports. The National Disaster Management Authority says at least 1600 people have died in the floods and 650,000 houses have been destroyed.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is appealing for immediate international help to cope with the devastation, which has reportedly affected as many as 14 million people.

A government relief agency says 12 million are affected in the north-western provinces of Khyber, Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. A further two million are affected in southern Sindh province.

The flooding, the worst in the region for 80 years, could worsen, as the monsoon season is only halfway through.

Indian region also swamped

Flooding has also hit the Ladakh region of Indian-administered Kashmir, where freak rains have killed at least 113 people.

India's military was called in to help rescue efforts after water swamped Leh, the main town in Ladakh, and surrounding villages during the night.

Residents waded kneedeep through mud to try to pull survivors out of collapsed buildings that look like they have been smashed by an earthquake.

A senior police official says dozens of people are missing.

New Zealand officials in India are attempting to contact a New Zealand man believed to have travelled to the town of Leh. The region is popular for adventure sports.