Residents taking shelter in a mosque wait to be evacuated as army soldiers move past in a boat in Nowshera. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: As many as 3,000 people may have died in floods that have devastated Pakistan's northwestern region, the local head of the country's largest rescue service said.

Disaster management official Adnan Khan said that the death toll from massive floods in the northwest has risen to 1,100 people. He expects the death toll to rise further since there are areas in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province that rescue workers have not been able to access.

Authorities are struggling to save more than 27,000 people still trapped by the flooding that has plagued the northwest in recent days following heavy monsoon rains. Khan said more than 20,000 people have been rescued so far.

A million people have been affected by the flooding, the United Nations said.

In pictures: Floods in Pakistan

"The death toll could go as high as 3,000 because the level of destruction has been so great," said Mujahid Khan, chief spokesman for Edhi rescue service.

Homes and bridges have collapsed in the rain, live electric wires have fallen into the waters and families have been swept away in the floods.

"We can see people drowning but we can't go into the water because of its high pressure," Khan said. "The relief efforts of everyone combined is only 5 per cent of what's required."

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered the government to rescue people and provide food supplies to those at safe locations.

Floods may reach the southern province of Sindh within the next few days, said Information Minister Sumsam Bokhari. The Sindh government has ordered the evacuation of residents along the banks of the River Indus.

Pakistani television channels showed images of people on flooded roads grabbing wreckage to keep from being swept away, drowning goats and buffalo, and makeshift boats.

Pakistan's weather bureau said an "unprecedented" 12 inches of rain had fallen in 36 hours in the northwest but predicted only scattered showers during coming days.

In neighbouring Afghanistan, flash floods have killed at least 65 people and affected more than 1,000 families, officials said.
"All the houses in my village have been destroyed and now it's simply a fight for survival," Mahmoud Khan, a tribal elder from South Waziristan.

The districts of Nowshera, Charsadda, Peshawar, Swat, and Lower Dir are the worst-affected, according to the government.

The army said it had sent boats and helicopters to rescue stranded people and its engineers were trying to open roads and divert water from key routes.

The European Commission said it had given $39 million in humanitarian aid to help the most needy.

"Pakistan has been hit by terrible floods and more rain is forecast. Our thoughts are with those affected by them," said Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

The flooding capped a week of tragedy for Pakistan after an airliner crashed into hills near Islamabad on Wednesday, killing 152 people on board.