May 12, 2009 in Nation/World

Thousands flee as battles grow


Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have fled fighting between the army and Taliban militants in a northwestern valley, raising the risk that public support could turn against an offensive Washington sees as a must-win battle.

The U.S. announced $4.9 million worth of aid for the refugees, many of whom arrived Monday in parched camps where children held empty food bowls and men lined up in the baking sun, questioning how they would survive.

At least 360,000 Pakistanis displaced by recent fighting have registered in camps and other centers since early May, the U.N. said. That’s on top of some 500,000 people displaced by offensives that date to August 2008 – though it’s unclear how many of those remain refugees.

Most of the newly displaced are expected to stay with relatives or friends. But some 30,000 are settling into U.N. camps, spokeswoman Ariane Rummery said.

A suspected U.S. missile strike killed at least eight people in the South Waziristan tribal region early Tuesday, Pakistani officials said.

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Mass graves dug for attack victims

Volunteers dug mass graves in the marshes of Sri Lanka’s northern war zone Monday as they buried hundreds of civilians killed in artillery attacks that the U.N. characterized as a “bloodbath.”

A doctor in the war zone said as many as 1,000 civilians may have been killed in two days of shelling that marked some of the worst violence in this Indian Ocean island nation since the civil war flared up again more than three years ago.

SAO LUIS, Brazil

Rescue efforts rise for flooded areas

Brazil intensified efforts to get food and other aid to people isolated by severe flooding as waters kept rising in some areas Monday, including a jungle river nearing its highest level in more than 50 years.

At least 40 people have died in the worst flooding in northern Brazil in at least two decades, and the number of homeless is now above 308,000. Communities remained inundated despite some easing of rain, and two deaths were reported in a previously unaffected state.

While officials reported waters were receding in most areas, some rivers were rising in the jungle state of Amazonas, including the Rio Negro that feeds the Amazon River. It was just 29 inches below a record set in 1953 at a measuring station in Manaus, an industrial city that is the jumping off point for rain forest tourism, the Agencia Brasil news agency said.

World Vision planned to send boats with supplies and doctors to help communities.

From wire reports

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