Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said that Pakistan is experiencing a “serious climate catastrophe” as the death toll from devastating flooding passed 1,000 on Sunday.
“We’ve had to deploy the navy for the first time to operate in Pakistan because much of it… resembles a small ocean,” Rehman told DW.
More than 100 people have died in the past day alone, officials said, with most of the new casualties reported in the southeastern province of Sindh and northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Rehman noted extreme weather conditions that have hit Pakistan this year as proof of a climate crisis.
“That started literally in early March, late February, when we went straight from winter to spring. Pakistan became one of the hottest places on the planet, crossing 53 degrees [Celsius] in the south. And that triggered… a whole season of forest fires, which we had to battle in areas where we already have low forest cover,” Rehman said.
Observers have pointed to corruption and poor infrastructure in Pakistan. But Rehman argues that UN experts on the ground now don’t “see it as anything but a climate catastrophe.”
“I don’t know anyone that could have planned for eight weeks of unrelenting monsoons in cities… taking 700% more water than ever. I don’t think that’s about planning. But having said that, of course, we need to plan better,” she said.
Further torrents expected in Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa evacuates thousands
Officials warned further torrents of water are expected to reach Sindh in the coming days.
“Right now, [the Indus river] is in high flood,” said Sukkur Barrage supervisor Aziz Soomroo. The barrage redirects water from the Indus to a vast system of canals.
Years of neglect have meant that the barrage’s canals have not been capable of dealing with today’s record volumes.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said he had never seen anything like it.
“Village after village has been wiped out. Millions of houses have been destroyed. There has been immense destruction,” Sharif said during a visit to Sindh.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes to relief camps set up in government buildings. The provincial government spokesperson, Kamran Bangash, said that many evacuees have also taken shelter on roadsides.
Local Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa officials cited by Pakistani news portal Dawn said that areas of the province had been “cut off” from the rest of the country, and many residents had been attempting to evacuate by foot, some traveling for days.
Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal told the EFE news agency that “some countries have promised aid that is on its way, but we need more assistance for the millions of people affected by the rains.”
The US, UK, China and the United Arab Emirates are among the countries that have pledged support.
The prime minister’s office said that the first delivery of international assistance occurred at the Noor Khan airbase near Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s capital Rawalpindi, and 15 more planes delivering aid will arrive over the coming days.
Pope Francis asserted his “closeness to the people of Pakistan struck by flooding of disastrous proportions.” He called for international solidarity to be “prompt and generous.”
Rehman also called for international help. “I would like not to be hectored by Western communities that have gotten rich on the back of burning fossil fuels. We are less than a 1% emitter in the world,” she said.