Planes carrying fresh supplies are forming a humanitarian air bridge to flood-ravaged Pakistan as the death toll passed 1,200, officials have said, with families and children especially at risk of disease and homelessness.
The ninth flight from the United Arab Emirates and the first from Uzbekistan were the latest to land in Islamabad overnight as a military-backed rescue operation elsewhere in the country reached more of the 3 million people affected by the disaster.
Officials blamed the unusual monsoon and flooding on climate change, including the UN secretary general, António Guterres, who earlier this week called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” through the deadly crisis.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that the planes brought food items, medicine and tents. Pakistan’s prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, had planned to travel to UAE on Saturday but postponed the trip to visit flood-hit areas at home.
So far Pakistan has received aid from China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, UAE and other countries. This week, the US announced it would provide $30m (£26m) of aid for flood victims.
Pakistan also blames the climate crisis for the heavy monsoon rains that triggered the floods. Asim Iftikhar, a spokesperson at theforeign ministry, said at a news briefing the previous day that the crisis had lent credibility to climate change warnings from scientists. “This is not a conspiracy, this is a reality and we need to be mindful,” he said.
According to initial government estimates, the devastation has caused $10bn in damages.
Since 1959, Pakistan has emitted about 0.4% of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, compared with 21.5% by the US and 16.4% by China, according to scientists and experts. Pakistani officials and experts say there has been a 400% increase in average rainfall in areas of Pakistan such as Balochistan and Sindh, which led to the extreme flooding.
Earlier this week, the UN and Pakistan issued a joint appeal for $160m in emergency funding to help the 3.3 million people affected by the floods, which have damaged more than 1m homes.
On Friday, authorities were warning people in the district of Dadu in the southern Sindh province to move to safer places ahead of the arrival of flood water from the swollen Indus River, which is expected to hit the region this week.
In May, some parts of Sindh were the hottest place in Pakistan. Now people are facing floods there that have caused an outbreak of waterborne diseases. Although flood waters continued to recede in most of the country, many districts in Sindh remained underwater.
Farah Naureen, the director for Pakistan at the international aid agency Mercy Corps, told the Associated Press that about 73,000 women would be giving birth within the next month, and they needed skilled birth attendants, privacy, and birth facilities. Otherwise, she said, the survival of the mothers and newborns would be at risk.
According to the military, rescuers, backed by troops, resumed rescue and relief operations early on Friday. Rescuers are mostly using boats, but helicopters are also flying to evacuate stranded people from remote flood-hit towns, villages and districts across Pakistan areas and deliver food to them.