Flood deaths pass 400 in Pakistan and Afghanistan

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool says whole villages have been washed away

More than 400 people have been killed and 400,000 displaced by monsoon flooding in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Most died in north-west Pakistan, while across the border in Afghanistan at least 60 were killed.

Several rivers burst their banks, washing away villages, roads and bridges. Some power supplies have been cut to prevent more electrocutions.

Officials say the floods are the worst the region has experienced in more than 80 years, and further rain is forecast.

'No drinking water'

Rescue workers and troops were struggling on Saturday to reach the hundreds of thousands of people in north-west Pakistan who have been left homeless or stranded by the flooding.

Analysis

There is gridlock at the main approaches to all roads leading south. Long and growing queues of brightly painted lorries, oil tankers, packed passenger buses and family cars have formed behind the toll booth leading to the main motorway.

But the bridge along this route was badly damaged by the force of the heaviest monsoon flooding since 1929. We have witnessed scenes of devastation and sorrow all along this road.

Whole villages of simple mud-brick houses were washed away by the torrents. One man whose daughter was also carried away by flood waters angrily blocked the motorway for more than an hour, demanding help from the government.

Countless others huddled in silence at the water's edge, sitting on metal cases and bundles of clothes - all the worldly goods they could carry when disaster struck.

The government's disaster team, including military helicopters, have started air-lifting people to higher ground and boats are being deployed. But more rain is forecast and the number of victims continues to grow as water levels rise.

Transport and communication links have been badly affected, even away from the worst-hit areas, says the BBC's Aleem Maqbool, in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, and helicopters have had to be used to deliver essential supplies.

Peshawar, the main city in the north-west, and the districts of Swat and Shangla have been cut off from the rest of the country.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told the Associated Press that 408 people had died there alone, describing it as the worst flooding since 1929.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's relief commissioner Shakil Qadir said the worst-hit area was Malakand, where more than 100 people had died. Many others are missing.

Pakistan's meteorological department said 312mm (12in) of rain had fallen over the last 36 hours in the north-west - the largest amount for decades.

And 25 people are said to have been killed over the past three days in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Muzaffarabad residents told the BBC there was no electricity or drinking water in parts of the city.

Livestock perish

The government has declared a state of emergency.

While the north-west of the country has borne the brunt of the flooding, the south-western province of Balochistan has also been hit hard, and some crops in Punjab province were reportedly ruined.

Pakistani soldiers evacuate stranded villagers near Nowshera, Pakistan on July 30, 2010

There was some respite from heavy rainfall on Friday, but more is forecast across much of Pakistan over the weekend.

Many of those hit hardest by the flooding are the rural poor who live in flood-prone areas because they cannot afford safer land.

Pakistani TV channels broadcast footage of vehicles, livestock and people being swept away by powerful torrents.

The army says all available troops have been deployed for relief work.

Those living in low-lying flood-prone areas have been advised to move to higher ground.

Airline officials said the weather was likely to have contributed to the plane crash in Islamabad on Wednesday in which more than 150 people died.

Taliban threat

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says that in Afghanistan's south-eastern Khost province and the eastern province of Laghman the Afghan National Army has been assisting some people, but locals are saying much more help is needed.

However, our correspondent says that providing assistance is hampered by the rural, mountainous terrain, a lack of good roads and the fact the Taliban is still active in the affected areas.

Much of the arable land and crops on which the locals rely have also been destroyed, our correspondent adds.

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