Six weeks on, south Pakistan faces new flood threat

Six weeks after the start of Pakistan’s devastating floods, waters pouring into a lake in southern Pakistan are threatening several towns and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee, officials said on Monday.

As floodwaters make their way to the Arabian Sea, new towns in Sindh province are being inundated as embankments constructed to protect cities and towns in the traditional flood plains are now channeling water into new areas, including Lake Manchar.

Tens of thousands of people have fled towns in the Dadu district ofSindh, and officials said more were asked to leave after water, flowing from a breached embankment, reached a dangerous point in the lake, Pakistan’s largest freshwater lake.

“Our entire concentration is now on Dadu district as the water is just a few inches from overtopping the Manchar Lake that could threaten many towns,” Additional Relief Commissioner, Riaz Ahmed Soomro, told Reuters.

Officials say several towns around the lake including Bhon and Jhingira are in danger of inundation, threatening an estimated 250,000 people.

“All my seven brothers and their families are now dependent on me as they are all farmers and floods have washed away their lands and crops,” said Abdul Ghani, a school teacher, whose village upstream from Manchar Lake has already flooded.

The floods are Pakistan’s worst-ever natural disaster in terms of damage, with more than six million people forced from their home and 20 million people affected.

The calamity has killed more than 1,750 people, and aid agencies have warned that millions more are still at risk of death if emergency food and shelter are not provided.

The government estimates losses at $43 billion and says the gross domestic product could be around 2.5 percent, from the original target of 4.5 percent for the 2010/11 (July-June) fiscal year.

As well as grappling with economic problems, Pakistan faces a new wave of suicide and bomb attacks carried out by pro-Taliban Pakistani militants after a lull during the floods.

More than 160 people have been killed attacks on security forces in the past two weeks in the country, whose support is seen as crucial for U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.