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China pays condolences over Pakistan floods - Xinhua
US pledges US$10m flood aid - Straits Times
Officials fear disease outbreak in flood-hit Pakistan - CNN
Pakistan floods 'kill 800' people and affect a million - BBC
UAE orders urgent aid for flood-hit Pakistan - Khaleej Times
Militants see opportunity in disaster - Asia Times
Lack of foresight
Dawn Editorial; 02 Aug, 2010
Floods have caused damage and devastation across the country in recent days, but perhaps nowhere more so than in northern Pakistan. Nowshera, Charsadda, Swat, Shangla, the information coming in from such districts is very grim. There is already speculation that the death toll will rise further and that may well be the case as the water recedes and the presently inaccessible areas are scoured. At this point, what the state is capable of doing on short notice is being attempted, from rescuing the stranded people to providing food and water. Inevitably, shortcomings in the state’s response have become apparent and the chorus of criticism is growing.
The area of devastation, though, is large and in many parts the rescue and emergency teams are still not able to operate, so perhaps at this point it is best to reserve final judgment. Nevertheless, there are some things that can be pointed out. For one, several of the nearly three dozen helicopters tasked with rescue and emergency efforts are being diverted to ferry around the media reporting on the crisis. To be sure, the public across the country needs to be kept informed of events in the area, but operating in an under-resourced environment requires using everything, not least helicopters, as efficiently as possible.
The other matter is that weak spot across the country: preparation. Nearly two months ago, a committee was formed in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly to prepare for the summer rains and potential flooding by removing encroachments along the riverbanks that have made the width of the riverbeds very narrow, particularly in urban centres like Peshawar. Predictably, nothing came of that. Then there is the issue of an early flood warning system. Presently, because of their importance, there are such systems in place for Mangla and Tarbela. But experts have been pleading for such systems in places like Kohat and Swat, arguing that water flows from Pakistani and Afghan sources can be estimated in advance and the information passed on to vulnerable areas. Once again, the pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Floods can cause devastation in even the most developed parts of the world, but the loss of life on a large scale is usually avoided precisely because of preparation. If nothing else, emergency supplies and relief boats could have been positioned in the most vulnerable areas in the weeks running up to the present crisis.