PESHAWAR: The death toll from Pakistan’s worst floods in living memory topped 1,000 Sunday as outbreaks of waterborne disease emerged and penniless survivors sought refuge from the raging torrents.
More than 1,000 people have been killed by monsoon rains, flash floods and landslides in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and at least another 47 have died in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, officials said.
Up to one million people have been affected, according to the United Nations, with thousands of homes and vast swathes of farmland destroyed in a region of Pakistan reeling from years of extremist bloodshed.
"This is the worst flood in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the country’s history," said provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain.
Hussain told AFP that "more than 1,000 people have been killed by floods in different parts of the province.
"At least 713 people died in Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsada while the death toll in Shangla and Swat districts is over 300," he added.
A senior official at the provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) confirmed the toll.
Hundreds of survivors sought shelter in schools in Peshawar, the main city in northwest Pakistan, and in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, after escaping the floods with children on their backs.
In neighbouring Afghanistan, flash floods killed at least 65 people and affected more than 1,000 families, officials said.
Pakistani television footage and photographs taken from helicopters showed people clinging to the walls and rooftops of damaged houses as water rushed through villages.
Muqaddir Khan, 25, who fled the floods with nine relatives, told AFP in Peshawar that he had lost everything.
"I laboured hard in Saudi Arabia for three years and set up a small shop which was swept away by flooding in minutes," Khan said.
Pakistan’s weather bureau said an "unprecedented" 312 millimetres (12 inches) of rain had fallen in 36 hours in the northwest but forecast only scattered showers would fall during coming days.
More than 300 people hit by floods rallied in Peshawar on Sunday, chanting slogans against the provincial government for not providing them adequate shelter, an AFP reporter witnessed.
"I had built a two-room house on the outskirts of Peshawar with my hard-earned money but I lost it in the floods," said 53-year-old labourer Ejaz Khan, who joined the rally.
"The government is not helping us… the school building where I sheltered is packed with people, with no adequate arrangement for food and medicine," Khan told AFP.
Waseyullah, 33, said his two brothers had worked as labourers in Saudi Arabia for the money with which he had built the small furniture factory he lost in the floods.
"I expect the provincial government to help me financially to rebuild this factory," he added.
More than 3,700 houses have been swept away by the floods in Pakistan and the number of people made homeless is rising, said Hussain, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s information minister.
"Our rescue teams are also trying to extricate some 1,500 tourists who are stranded in the Kalam and Behrain towns of Swat district," he said, referring to a region where the military last year waged a major anti-Taliban offensive.
"We are also getting confirmation of reports about an outbreak of cholera in some areas of Swat," Hussain added.
The army said it had sent boats and helicopters to rescue stranded people and its engineers were trying to open more roads and divert swollen rivers.
In Pakistani Kashmir, officials said army helicopters had been urgently requested in the worst-hit Neelam valley.
"It has been cut off from the rest of Kashmir and we still don’t know how many people are killed, injured and displaced there," State Disaster Management Authority chief Farooq Niaz said.
Manuel Bessler, head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Assistance in Pakistan, said communications had broken down in areas across the northwest.
"We have a planning figure of one million people affected directly by the floods," he told the BBC.
However, authorities said they had repaired a damaged portion of the Islamabad-Peshawar motorway to restore the northwest region’s road links with the rest of Pakistan.
The flooding capped a week of tragedy for Pakistan after an airliner crashed into hills near Islamabad Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board.