ISLAMABAD: Early estimates put the damage from Pakistan's recent deadly floods at more than $10 billion, its planning minister said on Monday (Aug 29), adding the world has an obligation to help the South Asian nation cope with the effects of man-made climate change.
Unprecedented flash floods caused by historic monsoon rains have washed away roads, crops, infrastructure and bridges, killing at least 1,000 people in recent weeks and affecting more than 33 million, over 15 per cent of the country's 220 million population.
The climate change minister has called the situation a "climate-induced humanitarian disaster of epic proportions."
"It's all one big ocean, there's no dry land to pump the water out," said climate change minister Sherry Rehman.
"Literally, one-third of Pakistan is underwater right now, which has exceeded every boundary, every norm we've seen in the past," she told AFP.
"We've never seen anything like this."
"I think it is going to be huge. So far, (a) very early, preliminary estimate is that it is big, it is higher than US$10 billion," planning minister Ahsan Iqbal told Reuters in an interview.
"So far we have lost 1,000 human lives. There is damage to almost nearly one million houses," Iqbal said at his office.
"People have actually lost their complete livelihood."
Iqbal rated the recent floods worst than those that hit Pakistan in 2010, for which United Nations (UN) had issued its largest ever disaster appeal.
The minister said it might take five years to rebuild and rehabilitate the nation, while in the near term it will be confronted with acute food shortages.
To mitigate food shortfalls, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said the country could consider importing vegetables from arch-rival India.
The two neighbouring countries have not had any trade for a long time.
"We can consider importing vegetables from India," Ismail told local Geo News TV, adding other possible sources of food imports included Turkey and Iran.
Food prices have already shot up due to flooded crops and impassable roads.
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was saddened by the devastation caused by the floods.
"We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, the injured and all those affected by this natural calamity and hope for an early restoration of normalcy," he said in a tweet.
CLIMATE CHANGE VICTIM
Social media users posted videos showing stranded people and whole families washed away by floodwater. Reuters was unable to independently verify the footage.
Southern, southwestern and northern Pakistan have been the hardest hit by the floods, which have swept large swaths of farmland and stored crops, also isolating the regions from the rest of the country for the last several days.
Tens of thousands of families have left their homes for safer places, moved in with their relatives, or to state-run camps, while others have been spending nights in the open, waiting for help including tents, food and medicine.
Pakistan has appealed for international help and some countries have already sent in supplies and rescue teams.
The nation's foreign minister told Reuters on Sunday he hoped financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund would provide financial aid, taking the economic cost of the floods into account.
However, Iqbal said any formal requests for financial help would need to wait until the scale of the damage was known, something Pakistan was now evaluating with partners, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
The Chinese government said on Monday it will provide additional humanitarian aid, including US$300,000 in cash and 25,000 tents. China had already sent 4,000 tents, 50,000 blankets and 50,000 waterproof tarps to Pakistan.
China's President Xi Jinping also called his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf to express his condolences on the severe flooding, according to Chinese state media.
The Canadian government on Monday announced US$5 million in funding for humanitarian assistance to Pakistan to deal with the flooding.
Iqbal also said the world owed Pakistan, which was a victim of climate change caused by the "irresponsible development of the developed world".
"Our carbon footprint is (the) lowest in the world," he said. "The international community has a responsibility to help us, upgrade our infrastructure, to make our infrastructure more climate resilient, so that we don't have such losses every three, four, five years," he said.
"Those areas which used to receive rainfall aren't receiving rainfall and those areas which used to receive very mild rains are receiving very heavy rainfall," he added.
Iqbal said 45 per cent of cotton crops had been washed away with early wheat sowing in southern Pakistan also affected, as large swaths of land remained inundated with flood water and severe damage to rice fields as well as vegetable and fruit crops.
Pakistan's finance ministry in its latest economic outlook update has warned of the impact on critical seasonal crops, particularly cotton, which is key for Pakistan's textile sector that makes up more than 60 per cent of the country's exports.
Analysts say the impact could be devastating for the country, which was already in the midst of an economic crisis, faced with high inflation, a depreciating currency and a current account deficit.
The IMF on Monday approved long-awaited over US$1.1 bln in bailout funds to resume a programme that had been stalled since early this year.