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At least 135 dead in Pakistan and Afghanistan as flooding continues to slam region

Pakistani prime minister calls for climate justice
Pakistani prime minister calls for climate justice after deadly floods 03:41

Death tolls across parts of central Asia have risen sharply as unusually extreme weather has continued to slam the region in recent days, with the combined tolls across hard-hit Pakistan and Afghanistan rose to at least 135 on Wednesday, officials said.

About 70 people have been killed in the last five days by heavy rains lashing Afghanistan, the government's disaster management department said. A similar number was reported Wednesday out of Pakistan, where images showed crowds of pedestrians earlier in the week wading through deep water that had pooled in public streets and on bridges. Officials said 65 people have been killed in storm-related incidents as Pakistan has been hammered by spring downpours, in which rain falls at nearly twice the historical average rate.

Afghanistan was parched by an unusually dry winter which desiccated the earth, exacerbating flash-flooding caused by spring downpours in most provinces.

Disaster management spokesman Janan Sayeq said "approximately 70 people lost their lives" as a result of the rain between Saturday and Wednesday. He said 56 others have been injured, while more than 2,600 houses have been damaged or destroyed and 95,000 acres of farmland wiped away.

Giving a smaller death toll last week, Sayeq said most fatalities at that point had been caused by roof collapses resulting from the deluges.

In Pakistan, most of the deaths were reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in the country's northwest, the Associated Press reported. Collapsing buildings have killed dozens of people, including at least 15 children, said Khursheed Anwar, a spokesman for the Disaster Management Authority, in comments to the outlet. Anwar said 1,370 houses were damaged in the region.

Pakistan Weather
People wade through a flooded bridge on a stream, which is overflowing following heavy rains, on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, April 15, 2024.  Muhammad Sajjad / AP

Pakistan is seeing heavier rain in April due to climate change, Zaheer Ahmed Babar, a senior official at the Pakistan Meteorological Department, told the AP.

"This month, so far there has been 353% more rainfall than normal in Baluchistan," Babar said. "Overall, rainfall has been 99% higher than the average across Pakistan, and it shows climate change has already happened in our country."

Babar said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province witnessed 90% more rain than usual in April, although rainfall in other parts of the country has remained relatively normal. It has been the wettest April in the past 30 years.

In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point flooded a third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damages, from which Pakistan is still trying to rebuild. Baluchistan saw rainfall at 590% above average that year, while Karachi saw 726% more rainfall than usual.

Pakistan Weather
People look on at a stream as it overflows following heavy rains on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, April 15, 2024. Muhammad Sajjad / AP

The United Nations last year warned that Afghanistan is "experiencing major swings in extreme weather conditions."

Flash floods in that country have also damaged 2,000 homes, three mosques, four schools and affected thousands of people who will need humanitarian assistance, he said. Floods also damaged agriculture land and 2,500 animals died from the deluges, Saiq said.

After four decades of war, Afghanistan ranks among the nations least prepared to face extreme weather events, which scientists say are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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