CAMP KOROONA, Pakistan – Relief efforts in Pakistan’s flood-ravaged northwest picked up pace Monday, but survivors complained about government inaction – a worrying sign for authorities seeking public support for the fight against militants in the region.
Around 300 people blocked a major road in the hard-hit Nowshera district to protest receiving little or no aid, witnesses said. Other survivors returned to devastated villages, wading through waist-high water to salvage chairs, plates and other possessions from beneath mud and debris.
“We have nothing, we are just depending on the mercy of God. Nothing left except this wet wheat,” said Marjan Khan, sorting through piles of the grain laid out on wooden beds.
Scores of bridges, roads and buildings have been washed away by the torrents, which were triggered by exceptionally heavy monsoon rain. The floods are the worst in a generation, and weather forecasters say more rains are due to fall in south and central Pakistan.
The death toll was at least 1,200 on Monday, with up to 2 million survivors requiring assistance.
The northwest is the epicenter of Pakistan’s battle against al-Qaida and the Taliban. Alongside military and police operations, the government – with the support of the West – is trying to improve its services and living standards there to blunt the appeal of militancy.
The Swat Valley, which has yet to recover from a major Pakistani army offensive against the insurgents just over a year ago, is one of the areas worst affected by the floods. The Pakistani army, which has the helicopters, boats and infrastructure needed for relief work, is delivering food, medicine and tents, as are government agencies and several different political parties and welfare organizations.
At least one extremist group – a welfare organization allegedly linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror network – is also helping.