ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (eTN) – Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of Pakistan Dr. Zafar Iqbal Qadir has announced a “Red Alert” in the country, and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday has canceled a visit to the United States to attend the UN General Assembly session because of floods in the country that have hit southern Pakistan. These developments indicate that now Pakistan has started taking floods seriously while the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Mon, has also directed UN agencies to get involved and speed up work on behalf of Pakistan.
“The prime minister has canceled his visit because of the floods, and now the foreign minister will represent Pakistan on the visit,” an official in Gilani’s office told eTN when contacted.
Earlier, PM Gilani was scheduled to visit the US on September 19 for an address to the UN General Assembly. “The prime minister will visit flood-affected areas from tomorrow and supervise relief efforts,” the official statement said.
The latest floods, triggered by monsoon rains, have killed more than 230 people, destroyed or damaged 1.2 million houses, flooded 4.5 million acres (1.8 million hectares), and displaced around now 7 million people as torrential rains are reaching Baluchistan and the upper parts of the country. There was massive rain the whole night in the catchment areas of the rivers of Ravi, Beas, Satluj, and Chinab. More than 300,000 people have been moved to shelters. Some 800,000 families hit by last year’s floods are still homeless.
Aid groups have warned of a growing risk of potentially fatal diseases. Last year the military took charge of rescue and relief efforts, along with aid groups. The army is active again in the latest disaster.