Latest Pakistan floods prompt fresh exodus from towns

Pakistani soldiers help flood affected villagers from boats in Khairpur Nathan Shah in southern Sindh province At least 350,000 people are on the move in Sindh, fleeing the new flood surge

Several hundred thousand more people have been forced to flee towns and villages in Pakistan's southern Sindh province amid fresh flooding.

Water is gushing towards Dadu district after a breach in the Toori dam in the north of the already flood-hit region.

In the past weeks all but four of Sindh's 23 districts have been deluged.

Weeks after monsoon rains triggered devastating floods across Pakistan, aid agencies say more than eight million displaced people need food and water.

The Toori dam was washed away in August, causing the waters of the River Indus to split in two.

One side is continuing to flow to the Arabian sea, while the other is going parallel to the Indus' natural course, wreaking a path of destruction.

This rogue flow of water has now reached Dadu district, and is pouring into Manchar, the country's largest freshwater lake.

It has swollen to the extent that it is now threatening to inundate those parts of the province which have so far escaped the disaster.

If Lake Manchar overflows, the waters could cut off access to the Indus highway, the area's main connection to the rest of the country.

Army engineers are trying to prevent this happening by plugging the breach at the Toori dam.

Their job has been severely hampered by fresh rains in northern Pakistan, which have given a new lease of life to the flooding.

In Dadu, the authorities are battling to save two cities threatened by this latest flood surge - Dadu city and Johi - reinforcing protective embankments and dykes.

"We are taking all-out measures to save them from ravaging floodwaters," provincial irrigation minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo told AFP news agency.

Agricultural losses

District co-ordination officer Iqbal Memon said that of the two, Johi was the most threatened by the advancing floods:

"The floodwaters are fast heading towards Johi town after inundating most parts of Khairpur Nathan Shah and Mehar towns and several surrounding villages in Dadu district," he told the Associated Press.

Flooded areas in Southern Punjab The floods have ruined 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of farmland

About 80% of Johi's population of 60,000 has already fled, and at least 350,000 people in the local area are on the move, heading to safer ground.

More than 1,600 people have died and about 17 million of Pakistan's 166 million people have been affected by the disaster.

The authorities in Sindh have been assessing agricultural damage wrought by the floods.

They say that agricultural losses in the province will reach $1bn, with the losses in cotton production alone put at over $370m - a situation made all the more serious by the fact that cotton is the country's most important cash crop.

Sindh is also known for growing rice, sugar cane, vegetables, citrus fruit and pulses, and officials say that up to a third of the harvest is now likely to have been lost or spoilt.

Harvest fears

Across the country, the floods have ruined 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of farmland, and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said farmers urgently needed seeds to plant for next year's crops.

The UN estimates that across the country, 1.2 million livestock, among them cattle used for ploughing, have drowned in the floods.

Bore wells have been damaged, top soil washed away and farm equipment lost.

And there are now growing concerns that fields will be too waterlogged for farmers to be able to sow the winter wheat in time.

If you would like to make a donation to help people affected by the floods in Pakistan, you can do so through the UK's Disasters Emergency Committee at www.dec.org.uk or by telephone on 0370 60 60 900.

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