By MUNIR AHMED
ISLAMABAD — Planes carrying fresh supplies are surging across a humanitarian air bridge to flood-ravaged Pakistan as the death toll surged past 1,200, officials said Friday, with families and children at special 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.
Two more planes from U.A.E and Qatar with aid will arrive in Pakistan later Friday, and a Turkish train carrying relief goods for flood victims was on its way to the impoverished nation, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, a Turkish delegation headed by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to convey his condolences to him over damages caused by floods. Multiple officials blamed the unusual monsoon and flooding on climate change, including U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who earlier this week called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” through the deadly crisis.
Guterres will visit Pakistan on Sept. 9 to tour flood-hit areas and meet with officials.
In a statement Friday, the U.N. refugee agency said although the outcome of Tuesday’s funding appeal from the U.N. was “very encouraging,” more help is needed.
UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh said they were quickly releasing tents, as well as blankets, plastic sheets, buckets and other household items for flood victims.
“Our staff in the country report that the scale of the devastation that people face is unimaginable,” he said.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday that the planes brought food items, medicine and tents. Sharif had planned to travel to UAE on Saturday, but he postponed the trip to visit flood-hit areas at home.
So far, Pakistan has received aid from China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, U.A.E. and some other countries. This week, the United States also announced to provide $30 million worth of aid for the flood victims.
Pakistan blames climate change for the recent heavy monsoon rains that triggered floods.
Asim Iftikhar, the spokesman at Foreign Ministry, said at a news briefing the previous day that the crisis has 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 $10 billion in damages.
Since 1959, Pakistan has emitted about 0.4% of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, compared to 21.5% by the United States and 16.4% by China, according to scientists and experts. Pakistani officials and experts say there’s been a 400% increase in average rainfall in Pakistan’s areas like Baluchistan and Sindh, which led to the extreme flooding.
Earlier this week, the United Nations and Pakistan jointly issued an appeal for $160 million in emergency funding to help the 3.3 million people affected by floods that have damaged over 1 million homes.
On Friday, authorities were warning people in the district of Dadu in the southern Sindh province to move to safer places ahead of floodwater from the swollen Indus river that’s 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 around 73,000 women will be giving birth within the next month, and they needed skilled birth attendants, privacy, and birth facilities. Otherwise, she said, the survival of the mother and the newborn will be at risk.
According to the military, rescuers, backed by troops, resumed rescue and relief operations early 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.
Since mid-June, floods have also killed 733,488 goats, cows, and buffaloes apart from damaging crops. It forced Pakistan’s government to start importing vegetables to avoid a shortage of food. Pakistan is also in contact with Russia to import wheat, as floods destroyed grains stored by many villagers in homes to meet their whole year’s needs.