|KARACHI (Reuters) ? Flood waters threatened to engulf two towns in southern Pakistan on
Saturday, a month after the disaster began, as the United Nations warned that tens of
thousands of children risked death from malnutrition.
The floods are Pakistan's worst-ever natural disaster in terms of the amount of damage
and the number of people affected, with more than six million people forced from their
homes, about a million of them in the last few days as the water flows south.
The disaster has killed about 1,600 people, inflicted billions of dollars of damage to homes,
infrastructure and the vital agriculture sector and stirred anger against the U.S.-backed
government which has struggled to cope.
Floodwaters are beginning to recede across most of the country as the water flows
downstream, but high tides in the Arabian Sea meant they still posed a threat to towns in
Sindh province such as Thatta, 70 km (45 miles) east of Karachi.
Water had broken the banks of the Indus near Thatta and also broken out of a feeder canal
running off the river, compounding the danger, Riaz Ahmed Soomro, relief commissioner in
the southern province of Sindh, told Reuters.
The water has not reached the town up to now but it is approaching, Soomro said.
(For a slideshow, click
Tens of thousands of people have poured out of the delta town, which normally has a
population of about 300,000, after authorities told people to leave.
The floods began in late July after torrential monsoon downpours over the upper Indus
Even before the floods, Pakistan's economy was fragile. Growth, forecast at 4.5 percent
this fiscal year, is now predicted at anything between zero and 3 percent.
The floods have damaged at least 3.2 million hectares (7.9 million acres) -- about 14
percent of Pakistan's entire cultivated land -- according to the United Nation's food agency.
The total cost in crop damages is believed to be about 245 billion rupees ($2.86 billion.)
Authorities have been battling for days to save the town of Shahdadkot in northern Sindh's
rice-growing belt, raising an embankment several kilometres long as the water has crept
The flood barrier was still holding, Soomro said.
The United Nations said aid workers were becoming increasingly worried about disease and
hunger, especially among children in areas where even before the disaster, acute
malnutrition was high.
We fear the deadly synergy of waterborne diseases, including diarrhoea, dehydration and
malnutrition, senior UNICEF official Karen Allen said in a statement.
U.N. humanitarian coordinator Martin Mogwanja said the international response to the
disaster must be more assertive.
If nothing is done, an estimated 72,000 children, currently affected by severe malnutrition
in the flood-affected areas, are at high risk of death, he said.
(Additional reporting by Rebecca Conway in Islamabad; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by
(For more news visit Reuters India)