Pakistan floods: 'Monsoon on steroids', UN chief says as one third of country under water

Debi Edward reports on the 'climate calamity' facing Pakistan, after the United Nations launched its appeal to help the devastated country

Pakistan has been devastated by a "monsoon on steroids", United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, as the UN launched an urgent humanitarian appeal to member countries for $160 million to help the country cope.

Hundreds of thousands of people's lives are in tatters in Pakistan after deadly floods brought about by the monsoon season killed at least 1,130 and left many more facing homelessness and hunger.

More than 33 million people, or one in seven Pakistanis, are estimated to have been affected by the disaster.

Drone shots show damaged buildings lining Pakistan's Swat River

Dramatic satellite photographs showed cities before and after they were ravaged by floods.

"Pakistan is awash in suffering. The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids, the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding," Mr Guterres told a news conference on Tuesday.

"The climate catastrophe has killed more than 1,000 people, with many more injured. Millions are homeless.

Satellite images capture the city of Hala, in southeastern Sindh province, before (left) and after the flooding. Credit: Credit: Planet PBC

"Schools and health facilities have been destroyed. Livelihoods are shattered, critical infrastructure wiped out, and people's hopes and dreams have washed away."

The UN chief said the $160 million appeal would be used to support the government's response to the disaster and would "provide 5.2 million people with food, water, sanitation, emergency education, protection and support."

'People's hopes and dreams have washed away,' says United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

"South Asia is one of the world's global climate crisis hotspots. People living in these hotspots are 15 times more likely to die from climate impacts as we continue to see more and more extreme weather events around the world," he said.

Mr Guterres added it was "outrageous that climate action is being put on the back burner as global emissions of greenhouse gases are still rising, putting all of us everywhere in growing dangers."

Homes are surrounded by floodwaters in Sohbat Pur city, a district of Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, on Monday. Credit: AP

"Let's stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change. Today it is Pakistan, tomorrow it could be your country," he finished.

A third of Pakistan is believed to be underwater, with the floods estimated to have caused over $10bn in damages, a government minister said on Monday.

"I think it is going to be huge. So far, (a) very early, preliminary estimate is that it is big, it is higher than $10 billion," planning minister Ahsan Iqbal told Reuters in an interview.

Residents in the town of Bahrain manoeuvre across the river, surveying the damage as they go

"So far we have lost 1,000 human lives. There is damage to almost nearly one million houses," Mr Iqbal said at his office.

"People have actually lost their complete livelihood."

Satellite images show before (left) and after flooding hit the city of Sukkur, in the southeastern province of Sindh. Credit: Planet PBC

He added the floods were worse than those that hit Pakistan in 2010, for which the United Nations (UN) had issued its largest ever disaster appeal.

The minister said it might take five years to rebuild and rehabilitate the nation, while in the near term it will be confronted with acute food shortages.

Maps reveal the scale of the floods' devastation in Pakistan

Disaster officials say nearly a half million people were crowded into camps after losing their homes, while the country's climate minister, Sherry Rehman, said Pakistan was facing “a serious climate catastrophe."

Ms Rehman said on Monday that one third of the country was under water, adding: "Frankly, no one has seen this kind of downpour & flooding before, and no one country can cope alone with the multiple, cascading effects of extreme weather, climate events."

The heavy rains are the latest in a series of catastrophes that Ms Rehman said are exacerbated by climate change, including heatwaves, forest fires and glacial lake outbursts.

The damage reflects how poorer countries often pay the price for climate change largely caused by more industrialised nations.

Since 1959, Pakistan is responsible for only 0.4% of the world’s historic CO2 emissions. The United States is responsible for 21.5%, China for 16.5% and the EU 15%.

Army troops distribute food to displaced people in a flood-hit area in in Hyderabad, Pakistan, on Saturday. Credit: AP

The country received a $1.1 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday, funds which had been stalled since early this year, when the IMF expressed concern about Pakistan’s compliance with the deal’s terms under the government of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was ousted through a no-confidence vote in the parliament in April.

Meanwhile, former World Champion boxer Amir Khan, from Bolton, donated five million rupees (£19,000) to a telethon raising money for victims of the flooding.

The Queen expressed sympathy for those affected by the disaster on Monday, saying: "I am deeply saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the floods across Pakistan," in a message to the country's president.

"My thoughts are with all those who have been affected, as well as those working in difficult circumstances to support the recovery efforts," she added.

Pakistan started receiving international aid this week, and more planes carrying aid from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates landed at an airport near Islamabad on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the military.

It said Chinese planes carrying aid will also arrive in Pakistan later on Tuesday.

Pakistan has also deployed at least 6,500 soldiers to help authorities in rescue and relief operations.

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