Sun, Aug 29, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Another levee breach threatens south Pakistan city

AP, THATTA, Pakistan

Floodwaters made another break yesterday in the levees protecting a southern Pakistani city, as thousands of residents fled for high ground and left the city nearly empty.

Both sides of the main road were crowded with people from Thatta and nearby flooded villages fleeing the floodwaters. Many had spent the night sleeping out in the open.

Hadi Baksh Kalhoro, a Thatta disaster management official, said more than 175,000 people had left the city, leaving few behind.

Some are heading for nearby towns or cities, he said, with thousands also headed for the high ground of an ancient graveyard for Muslim saints.

He said the latest levee breach, which happened early yesterday, could leave the outskirts of Thatta flooded by later in the day. The city is about 125km southeast of the major coastal city of Karachi.

The floods began in the mountainous northwest about a month ago with the onset of monsoon rains and have moved slowly down the country toward the coast in the south, inundating vast swaths of prime agricultural land and damaging or destroying more than 1 million homes.

More than 8 million people are in need of emergency assistance across the country.

The UN, the Pakistani army and a host of local and international relief groups have been rushing aid workers, medicine, food and water to the affected regions, but are unable to reach many people.

Yesterday, flood victims blocked a road in Thatta to protest the shortage of aid, most of which is randomly thrown from trucks into crowds of needy people.

“The people who come here to give us food treat us like beggars. They just throw the food. It is humiliating,” said 80-year-old Karima, who uses only one name.

She was living in the graveyard with more than two dozen relatives.

The new levee breach came as suspected militants attacked an army intelligence office in the main city in Pakistan’s northwest, officials said.

Captured militant suspects were being questioned in the office at the time of the attack, two local police officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. It was not clear, though, if the attack was tied to the questioning.

The shooting began about 6am, and while Pakistani forces had deployed throughout the area, it continued more than five hours later.

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