Islamabad: Rescuers on Saturday struggled to reach thousands of people affected by flash floods that continued to wreak havoc in northwest Pakistan.
A Pakistan Army spokesman said troops had evacuated 14,250 people from flooded areas using 17 helicopters, in addition to airdropping 50 tons of rations, including 5,000 packaged meals. Television footage showed devastated villages in which rice and corn crops had been washed away.
President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan ordered aid to be sent urgently to flood victims in Pakistan. The Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity Foundation is putting together a package that includes blankets and tents, as well as medical and food supplies.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Information Minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told a media conference that 150 people were missing in the northwestern province. The death toll rose to 430 on Saturday.
The minister said that 300,000 people had been left homeless. At least 700,000 people have been affected and the number was likely to escalate as river levels continue to rise, the minister said.
Hundreds of homes and vast swathes of farmland were destroyed in the northwest and Pakistani Kashmir, with the main highway to China reportedly cut and communities isolated as monsoon rains caused flash floods and landslides.
"This is the worst ever flood in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the country's history," Hussain said.
TV footage showed helpless villagers using traditional wooden beds to ferry their families to safety.
The army said it had sent boats and helicopters to rescue stranded people and miliary engineers were attempting to open roads and divert the waters from key routes.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said he could not visit the flood-hit areas of Rawalpindi city, prompting harsh criticism and noisy protests by homeless residents.
Plans were underway for an additional 50 motorboats to join the rescue operation from Saturday.
"On average, 27,000 hectares of forest are cut down in Pakistan every year and heavy deforestation is responsible for massive flooding and landslides in the North-West Frontier Province," Environment Minister Hamid Ullah Afridi said.
With inputs from WAM and agencies