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Pakistan: authorities try to contain a lake swollen by monsoon rains

A third of Pakistan - an area the size of the UK - is under water after months of record monsoon rains that killed 1,300 people and destroyed homes, businesses, roads and bridges.

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Pakistan: authorities try to contain a lake swollen by monsoon rains

A third of Pakistan - an area the size of the UK - is under water after months of record monsoon rains that killed 1,300 people and destroyed homes, businesses, roads and bridges.

The government has set at least $10 billion the bill for a country already in the throes of a severe economic crisis, while hundreds of thousands of people are left homeless as the monsoon ends and winter is upon us. the horizon.

"There is no place to take a shower or go to the toilet," said Zebunnisa Bibi, sheltered with around 500 people who fled their flooded villages in a camp near Fazilpur, in Punjab province.

Such camps, complete with tents, have sprung up all over southern and western Pakistan, where there are hardly any dry places left to drain water.

In the southern province of Sindh, engineers had to dig a diversion channel to drain water from Lake Manchar, on the verge of overflowing and which threatened the towns of Sehwan and Bhan Saeedabad, whose combined population is approaching the half a million souls.

Thousands of people had to be evacuated from flooded homes around the new canal.

- Larger than ever -

"The flow of water has been diverted, but the threat is far from gone," Sindh's Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon told AFP on Monday. "We are doing our best to prevent more villages from being flooded."

Lake Manchar, located a few kilometers west of the Indus, varies in size depending on the season and the extent of the weather. But, according to the local population, it has never been as vast as it is today.

Most of the southern provinces of Sind and Balochistan are just an endless expanse of water, with people cramming together in the few elevated and still dry places, on roads or railways in particular.

Human and animal faeces in the fetid water attract swarms of flies and mosquitoes, and dengue fever outbreaks have already been reported.

A woman about to give birth in a camp in Punjab province told AFP she was desperate to finally receive medical help.

"I need a doctor or a midwife. What will happen if something happens to my child?", worries Fahmidah Bibi, mother of five and who fears giving birth in such an environment.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announced over the weekend that at least 128,000 pregnant women in flooded areas were in urgent need of assistance, with 42,000 expected to give birth in the next three months.

- Climate change -

Pakistan receives monsoon rains essential for irrigating plantations and replenishing water resources, but often destructive.

However, it had not seen such heavy rains for at least three decades.

Islamabad blames the devastating floods on climate change, which is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events across the planet.

This year, Pakistan has already faced a heat wave that sometimes exceeded 50°C, devastating forest fires and devastating floods caused by the rapid melting of glaciers.

It is responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but it is in 8th position among the countries most at risk from extreme weather events, according to a study by the NGO Germanwatch.

A large relief operation led by the army has been underway for several days. But the government admitted to being overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster and appealed to the international community for help.

According to the latest figures from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), nearly 6,000 km of roads have been washed away, 246 bridges destroyed and 1.6 million homes destroyed or severely damaged since the start of the monsoon in June.

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