August 18, 2009 / 12:33 PM / 10 years ago

Flash floods in Pakistan kill at least 27, U.N. says

GENEVA (Reuters) - At least 27 people have died in northwestern Pakistan and nine are missing in flash floods since the weekend that have also destroyed houses, crops and livestock, the United Nations said Tuesday.

“The final toll could be higher,” Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), told a news conference in Geneva.

Much of the maize, rice, sugarcane and tobacco crops in the Swabi and Mardan districts of North West Frontier Province have been submerged by heavy rainfall which has affected some 80,000 people in Swabi alone since Sunday, she said.

Food insecurity is expected in coming months as most farmers store six months of wheat or dry rations in their mud homes, an estimated 400-450 of which have been swept away, Byrs said.

Medicine, shelter material and drinking water was needed, OCHA said. U.N. agencies are sending items including tents.

The Pakistan military went on the offensive in the Swat valley northwest of the capital in late April to drive out Taliban militants.

The offensive forced nearly 2 million people from their homes but many have been returning in recent weeks since the army said most militants had been cleared from the valley.

OCHA said Swabi and Mardan are the districts with the largest number of people displaced due to military operations in Malakand Division, an area of North West Frontier Province that includes the Swat valley. Swabi hosted displaced persons from Buner district, while Mardan took in those from Swat.

“Unfortunately this bad weather is seriously complicating aid operations, notably for the displaced population coming back to Buner district in Malakand,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, spokesman of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Editing by Dean Yates

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