The toll of Pakistan’s cataclysmic floods continued to rise on Saturday with 57 more dead, including 25 children, as the country grapples with a rescue and relief operation of an almost unprecedented scale.
A high-level body set up to coordinate the relief effort met for the first time in Islamabad on Saturday, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to take stock of the disaster.
Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in the northern mountains caused floods that affected 33 million people and killed at least 1,265 people, including 441 children. The flood, blamed on climate change, continues to expand.
The proportion of child deaths has raised concern. On Friday, the United Nations children’s agency (Unicef) said there was a risk of “many more” child deaths from disease after the floods.
The floods that inundated a third of the country were preceded by four heat waves and several powerful forest fires, the disaster management chief told the summit, highlighting the effects of climate change in the South Asian nation.
“The year 2022 has brought some harsh realities of climate change for Pakistan,” National Disaster Management Authority chief Lt. Gen. Akhtar Nawaz told a briefing for the country’s top leadership.
“This year we haven’t seen a spring season – we’ve had four heatwaves that have caused widespread forest fires across the country,” he said.
The fires were particularly bad in the southwestern province of Balochistan, destroying areas of pine forests and other vegetation not far from the areas now under water.
Balochistan received 436% more rain than the 30-year average this monsoon.
The province experienced widespread devastation, including a washout of key rail and road networks, as well as breakdowns in telecommunications and energy infrastructure, the meeting was told.
The country received almost 190% more rain than the 30-year average in the August quarter, totaling 390.7 mm (15.38 in). Sindh province, with a population of 50 million, was the worst hit, receiving 464 percent more rain than the 30-year average.
Aid has poured in from several countries, with the first humanitarian aid flight from France landing in Islamabad on Saturday morning. But Pakistan’s largest charity group said there were still millions of people who had not been reached by aid and relief efforts.
Initial damage estimates were estimated at $10 billion, but studies are still being conducted in conjunction with international organizations.
The United Nations appealed for $160 million in aid to help combat what it said was an “unprecedented climate catastrophe” as Pakistan’s navy moved inland to carry out operations helpful in areas that resemble a sea.