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Pakistan floods: Parts of the country now ‘like a sea’ says prime minister

Women carry belongings salvaged from their flooded home after monsoon rains, in the Qambar Shahdadkot district of Sindh Province, of Pakistan.
Women carry belongings salvaged from their flooded home after monsoon rains, in the Qambar Shahdadkot district of Sindh Province, of Pakistan.   -   Copyright  AP Photo
By Nicole Lin Chang  with Reuters

Pakistan is in the midst a climate-driven disaster.

The country has been hit by historic rains and floods in the last few weeks. The extreme weather has now killed more than 1,300 people and affected more than 33 million.

Parts of Pakistan now seem "like a sea", said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, after visiting some of the flood-hit areas.

"You wouldn't believe the scale of destruction there," he told reporters after a visit to the southern province of Sindh. "There is water everywhere as far as you can see. It is just like a sea.”

The devastation has left 100,000s homeless and caused losses of at least $10 billion (€10.1 billion), officials estimate.

The situation in Pakistan has been called out by Greta Thunberg as a “very clear example” of the “existential emergency” of climate change. The Swedish activist says that politicians in her home country are treating the climate as a distant problem only to be focussed on when they have “time to spare”.

Pakistan received nearly 190 per cent more rain than the 30-year average in July and August, totalling 391 mm (15.4 inches), with Sindh getting 466 per cent more rain than the average.

The country’s meteorological department has attributed these “extraordinarily above normal rains” to climate change.

Extreme rainfall is becoming more frequent and intense in many parts of the world, and is widely attributed to human-made greenhouse gases. And as emissions increase, so will these sorts of extreme weather events.

AP Photo
Children stand in front of their flooded home after monsoon rains in the Sindh Province of Pakistan.AP Photo

But what’s happening in Pakistan right now has also led people to call out the imbalance faced by the world’s poorest countries, many of which have historically contributed a fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions, but now face devastating climate disasters.

“Global warming is the existential crisis facing the world and Pakistan is ground zero, yet we have contributed less than 1 per cent to [greenhouse gas] emissions,” the country’s climate minister Sherry Rehman told the Guardian.

Pakistan floods: What’s the international aid response?

The United Nations has called for $160 million (€161 million) in aid to help the flood victims.

UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has also scaled up its response, mounting a huge airlift operation from Dubai to help those displaced from their homes.

But with Pakistan Meteorological Department forecasts predicting more rain for the coming month, there are fears the situation could deteriorate further.

“This will increase challenges for flood survivors, and likely worsen conditions for nearly half a million displaced people, forcing more to abandon their homes,” said UNHCR’s director for Asia and the Pacific, Indrika Ratwatte, at a press briefing.