Major Flooding in Pakistan ’33 million displaced or effected’

Revelation 16:9 “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.”

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘A catastrophe on a scale I have never seen’: A THIRD of Pakistan could be underwater before floods that have killed 1,061 people begin to recede, country’s experts warn
  • More than 1,000 dead by drowning and building collapses amid ‘unprecedented’ two-month monsoon season
  • Foreign minister Zardari described ‘floods from the sky’ and ‘water, water and more water’ in his hometown
  • He added: ‘It is a catastrophe on a scale that I have never seen before’, imploring other nations for urgent help
  • Politicians blame ‘horrors of climate change’ – but residents cite lax construction laws and state corruption
  • Dramatic footage shows navy helicopter rescuing stranded boy and family transported over tiny bed frame
  • Entire villages have been washed away as 33 million Pakistanis displaced or affected, foreign minister said
  • Queen writes to Pakistani PM: ‘UK stands in solidarity with Pakistan as you recover from these terrible events’

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Heavy rain floods critical care unit at Indian hospital

FILE PHOTO: A woman carries drinking water after collecting it from a hand pump at a flood affected area in Hojai district, in the northeastern state of Assam, India, June 17, 2018. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika/File Photo

BHUBANESWAR/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Heavy rains flooded a hospital critical care unit in eastern India, an official said on Monday, as annual monsoon rains destroyed homes in several parts of the country and forced others to flee to higher ground.

Television showed doctors wading through knee-deep water tending to patients lying on raised beds at the government Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) in Patna, the capital of Bihar state.

FILE PHOTO: A woman sits inside her flooded house after heavy rains in Ahmedabad, India, June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File photo

FILE PHOTO: A woman sits inside her flooded house after heavy rains in Ahmedabad, India, June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File photo

Some patients had been moved out as staff pumped out water that had seeped into medical equipment.

More than 1,500 people have died so far this year across the country due to storms, floods and landslides. Most government action in India tends to focus on relief, with weak early warning systems and too little focus on prevention.

More rain is forecast for Bihar and neighboring Uttar Pradesh where 80 people have died over the last four days, either drowning or being hit by collapsing walls.

Rivers running through Uttar Pradesh were in spate. “The next one week is critical. If the water level rises consistently…definitely we will have a flood scenario,” said state relief commissioner Sanjay Kumar.

More than 10,000 people who lived near the banks of the Yamuna river in and around Delhi have been shifted to tents on higher ground as the water level crossed the danger mark, district magistrate K. Mahesh said.

(Reporting by Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneshwar and Neha Dasgupta in New Delhi; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Migrant boat sinks off Turkish coast, 11 dead: DHA

Lifeguards from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms sanitise five dead bodies of migrants on-board the former fishing trawler Golfo Azzurro following a search and rescue operation in central Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

ANKARA (Reuters) – A plastic boat carrying 22 migrants sank off Turkey’s Aegean coastal town of Kusadasi on Friday, killing 11 people and leaving four missing, the Dogan news agency (DHA) said.

Television footage showed bodies washed up on a beach near the town. Rescuers managed to save seven people from the stricken vessel and the coast guard was searching for any other survivors, Dogan said.

A deal between Turkey and the European Union on curbing illegal migration, struck a year ago, helped reduce the migrant influx to Europe via Greek islands to a trickle. But some are still trying to make the perilous voyage across the Aegean.

Just 3,629 refugees and migrants have crossed to Greece from Turkey so far this year, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, and about 60 arrive on Greek islands each day. At least 173,000 people, mostly Syrians, arrived in 2016.

Europe’s deteriorating relations with Turkey could endanger the deal, under which Ankara helps control migration in return for the promise of accelerated EU membership talks and aid.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey would review all political and administrative ties with the EU after an April referendum, including the migrant deal.

Erdogan has been angered by Germany and the Netherlands cancelling planned rallies on their territory by Turkish officials seeking to drum up support for a “yes” vote in the referendum, which could lead to constitutional changes extending the powers of the presidency.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara and Karolina Tagaris in Athens; Writing by Nick Tattersall)

Mediterranean death toll is record 5,000 migrants this year

A wooden boat, used by migrants and refugees, is abandoned at a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos November, 2015. The writing on the boat reads "Aegean zero hour"

GENEVA (Reuters) – A record 5,000 migrants are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea this year, following two shipwrecks on Thursday in which some 100 people, mainly West Africans, were feared dead, aid agencies said on Friday.

Two overcrowded inflatable dinghies capsized in the Strait of Sicily after leaving Libya for Italy, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said.

“Those two incidents together appear to be the numbers that would bring this year’s total up to over to 5,000 (deaths), which is a new high that we have reported during this crisis,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a Geneva briefing.

The Italian coast guard rescued survivors and had recovered eight bodies so far, he said. IOM staff were interviewing survivors brought to Trapani, Italy, he added.

Just under 3,800 migrants perished at sea during all of 2015, according to IOM figures.

An Algerian migrant stands in front the Mediterranean Sea in Spain's north African enclave of Ceuta, Spain,

An Algerian migrant stands in front the Mediterranean Sea in Spain’s north African enclave of Ceuta, Spain, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Juan Medina

UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said the “alarming increase” in deaths this year appeared to be related to bad weather, the declining quality of vessels used by smugglers, and their tactics to avoid detection.

“These (reasons also) include sending large numbers of embarkations simultaneously, which makes the work of rescuers more difficult,” he said

The UNHCR appealed to states to open up more legal pathways for admitting refugees. Resettlement programmes, private sponsorship, family reunification and student scholarships would help “so they do not have to resort to dangerous journeys and the use of smugglers”, Spindler said.

IOM figures show 358,403 migrants and refugees had entered Europe by sea in 2016 up to and including Dec. 21, arriving mostly in Greece and Italy.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams and John Stonestreet)

Drownings push hurricane death toll to 19 in flooded North Carolina

Flooding waters of theTar River cover the Riverwalk Apartments due to rainfall caused from Hurricane Matthew in Greenville, North Carolina,

By Nicole Craine

KINSTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Rivers swollen by rainfall from Hurricane Matthew rose dangerously higher in North Carolina on Wednesday, prompting officials to go door to door urging residents to leave as a wide swath of the state faced its worst flooding in 17 years.

Floodwaters have swamped areas across the central and eastern part of the state, where drownings in recent days have brought the death toll to 19.

That figure represents more than half of the deaths in the U.S. Southeast linked to the fierce Atlantic storm, which killed around 1,000 people in Haiti and displaced hundreds of thousands as it tore through the Caribbean last week.

Matthew caused an estimated $10 billion in total U.S. property losses, about $5 billion of which are insured, according to a preliminary estimate by Goldman Sachs.

The damages continue to mount in North Carolina. Flooding has killed up to 5 million poultry birds, most of them chickens, in a blow to the local economy, said North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Donald van der Vaart.

The floodwaters have forced more than 3,800 residents to flee to shelters, closed down stretches of major interstate highways and shuttered 34 school systems, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory told reporters in Raleigh.

Emergency officials rescued dozens of people on Wednesday from flooded homes in areas including Robeson and Pender counties. There were no official estimates as to the number of people and homes still in harm’s way in the state.

Matthew’s aftermath drew comparisons to Hurricane Floyd, which triggered devastating floods in North Carolina in 1999 and caused more than $3 billion in damages in the state.

In Kinston, where the Neuse River is expected to peak on Saturday at almost twice the 14-foot (4.3 meter) flood stage and just shy of the Floyd record, city officials warned residents not to be fooled by the water’s gradual rise.

“It’s not like it’s a tidal wave that’s coming. It’s a slow rise,” city manager Tony Sears said in a phone interview.

But, he added, “in the next 24 hours, it’s not whether I should go or not, it’s when you should go.”

Residents should be prepared to be out of their homes for more than a week, Sears said, with river levels expected to remain elevated into next week.

Nazareth Gray (4) sits on the edge of a cot at the Carver Heights Elementary School shelter after her and her grandmother Margaret (not pictured) were displaced by the effects of Hurricane Matthew in Goldsboro, North Carolina,

Nazareth Gray (4) sits on the edge of a cot at the Carver Heights Elementary School shelter after her and her grandmother Margaret (not pictured) were displaced by the effects of Hurricane Matthew in Goldsboro, North Carolina, U.S. October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Kinston resident Toby Hatch, 60, who lived through Floyd and Hurricane Irene, which destroyed his home in 2011, heeded the city’s evacuation order this week and headed to a shelter.

“I didn’t really want to leave, but I was already looking at enough water that I was trapped,” he said.

Evacuations also continued in Greenville, where the Tar River was 10 feet (3 meters) above flood stage and forecast to crest even higher by Friday. Flooding has forced the city’s airport to close and classes were canceled for the week for East Carolina University’s 28,000 students.

In Goldsboro, where the Neuse River peaked on Wednesday at a record level, Tony Rouse, 56, had taken refuge at an elementary school with his wife. His home lost power and all the roads leading to it were inundated, he said.

“It’s kind of boring,” he said of life at the shelter, “but it beats not being able to eat.”

(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Trott and Tom Brown)

Naming the nameless: experts struggle to identify drowned migrants

Wooden crosses for an unmarked refugee grave

By Isla Binnie and Michele Kambas

ROME/ATHENS (Reuters) – Mose tapped the screen of his mobile phone to zoom in on a photograph of his wife, Yordanos, pointing to a mole under her eyebrow.

“She has a recognizable mark here,” the 26-year-old Eritrean said in a park in Rome; after fleeing compulsory military service back home, Mose now lives in an Italian reception center for migrants.

He has not seen Yordanos since May 26 when they left Libya, packed by people smugglers on to two separate boats bound for Italy. He was rescued, but her boat sank in the Mediterranean.

Helping people like Mose find out their loved ones’ fate is becoming ever more pressing as Europe’s migrant crisis drags on in its third year and the death toll rises.

Teams of forensic scientists in Italy and Greece are painstakingly trying to identify the victims of drowning found at sea, washed up on shores or recovered from wrecks.

However, there is no common practice to collect information about these deaths between states or even sometimes within the same country, and a plan by the Dutch-based International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) to start tracing lost migrants is still awaiting funding.

Kathryne Bomberger, director general of the ICMP, said the problem was too big to be left solely to front-line countries such as Italy and Greece.

“This is a complex, international problem,” she said, as the task of identification and notification involves tracking down relatives who may be in their home countries, in refugee camps, or building new lives in the likes of Germany or Sweden.

“We are ready to go, we have the necessary database systems, we have an agreement with Italy, we have done our homework. We just need the financial support.”

The ICMP and International Organization for Migration (IOM) are calling for a strategy to process the data, and a system for repatriating migrants’ remains.


Mose, who withheld his surname for fear of reprisals from Eritrean authorities, clings to the hope that Yordanos was rescued and that she could be recognised from the photograph.

If she did not survive, and her body was recovered, her remains are likely to have been buried in one of hundreds of numbered graves in Sicily or the southwestern Calabria region for migrants who have drowned.

Both in Italy and Greece, which migrants have also tried to reach on a shorter but still dangerous sea crossing from Turkey, the forensic experts are trying to replace the numbers with names.

Sometimes they succeed, despite the practical and financial problems, as in the case of a baby boy found floating near the Greek island of Samos in January.

The child, no more than six months old, had been lost in a shipwreck on Oct. 29, 2015 when 19 migrants drowned. For over two months, his body drifted more than 150 km (95 miles) north until it was recovered from the water.

In the end, police identified the little boy from a DNA sample given by his Syrian father, who was among 139 people rescued when the boat sank in the Aegean off the island of Kalymnos.

“It is the least we can do for these people, under very difficult circumstances,” said Penelope Miniati, director of the Greek police’s Forensic Sciences Division.

For some, the tragedies recall Greece’s own history of migration, including in the 1950s and ’60s when many escaped poverty for a new life in countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia, breaking up families who sometimes lost contact with each other.

“We are Greeks, we also migrated and some people were lost in the journey … and each time people wondered what had happened to them,” said Miniati.


More than three quarters of the 4,027 migrant and refugee deaths worldwide in 2016 so far happened in the Mediterranean, according to the IOM.

Most died between Libya and Italy. Hundreds also drowned on the Turkey-Greece route, although arrivals have fallen sharply since a deal between the European Union and Ankara on curbing the flow in March.

Many shipwreck victims are never recovered, but about 1,500 have been brought to Italy since 2013. So far, just over 200 have been identified.

In a “policy vacuum” the action in Italy and Greece has been driven by “improvisation”, the IOM said in June in a joint report with City University London and the University of York.

The report praised a deal that Italy’s special commissioner for missing persons struck with a university laboratory, which provides free forensic work, and the interior ministry, to adopt a protocol to identify victims and inform relatives.

The commissioner records details of corpses and sends notices through embassies and humanitarian organizations asking survivors for photographs of the missing, and personal effects such as toothbrushes that could harbor DNA.

In Athens, Miniati’s division has a database with information on 647 people who need identifying, about 80 percent of them the nameless dead of the migrant crisis.

People who drown and stay trapped underwater for months are often unrecognizable, so accounts of scars, tattoos and dental cavities help. Some people come to Italy to look for missing relatives in the commissioner’s files and some take DNA tests.


Deputy Italian Commissioner Agata Iadicicco said a shared international database would make it easier to reach migrants’ home countries and diasporas across Europe. “We need money to standardize this model and to involve all the migrant communities that mainly live in northern Europe,” she said.

With no sign of a let-up in the perilous voyages from North Africa, Italy feels that fellow EU countries should pull their weight more in handling the crisis.

The issue of graves for the victims has become caught up in the ill-feeling. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he sent the navy to raise a ship that sank last year and bury the more than 450 people found in the wreck to “tell Europe which values really count”.

For Mose, whose young son is still in Eritrea, even being sure Yordanos had died would be some comfort. “If I find her body, I can find some serenity,” he said. “If my son asks whether his mother is, at least I can say where she is buried.”

(editing by David Stamp)

Want to save migrants in the Mediterranean? There’s an app for that

Migrants are seen on a partially submerged boat before to be rescued by Spanish fregate Reina Sofia

By Magdalena Mis

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A smartphone application that allows users to scan the Mediterranean for boats in distress is being tested by a migrant rescue service, which hopes that crowdsourced information will help it save more people.

The I SEA App, available on iTunes, divides a satellite image of the sea route migrants are taking into millions of small plots which are, in turn, assigned to registered users.

Each user then monitors their plot through the app and can send an alert to the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and the authorities if they spot potential trouble.

After receiving an alert, the authorities analyze the image and launch a rescue mission if necessary.

“The idea is that with more people getting interested you can cover bigger areas of the sea,” Ian Ruggier, MOAS head of operations, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It allows people to see that they are contributing towards saving lives. (The success) will depend on the popularity of the app,” he said by phone from Malta.

Migrants hoping to reach Italy from Libya pay hundreds of dollars to traffickers for a place in a boat. The vessels are often flimsy and ill-equipped for the journey across the Mediterranean.

The crossing is far more dangerous than that between Turkey and Greece, which was the busiest sea route until a deal to curb flows between the European Union and Turkey came into force in March.

So far this year more than 40,000 migrants have arrived in Italy after crossing the central Mediterranean, many fleeing poverty, repression and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 2,000 have died trying to make the crossing.

Launched in 2014, MOAS is the first privately funded migrant rescue service. It is already using drones in its rescue missions in the Mediterranean.

According to its website, MOAS rescued nearly 12,000 people in the first two years of becoming operational.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit

Texas floodwaters claim five soldiers’ lives at Fort Hood

Emergency crews patrol Fort Bend County after heavy rainfall caused the Brazos River to surge to its highest level causing flooding outside Housto

By Jon Herskovitz and Jim Forsyth

AUSTIN, Texas/SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – A U.S. Army truck overturned in a swollen Fort Hood creek on Thursday, killing five soldiers and leaving four missing as storms dumped more rain on flood-hit parts of Texas.

The rising floodwaters in Texas scrambled transportation, further swelled rivers already over their banks and sent more people to evacuation shelters.

The U.S. Army said the truck overturned at Fort Hood’s Owl Creek low-water crossing during a training exercise. Three bodies were recovered downstream, the Army said. It is unclear where the bodies of the additional two soldiers were found.

A search was being conducted for four soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division, it said in a statement.

Three soldiers were rescued from the water and were in stable condition at a hospital, the statement said. Fort Hood, about 70 miles (110 km) north of Austin, is the biggest active-duty armor post in the United States.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for parts of east Texas and Louisiana. It placed most of Texas on a flash flood watch because of a slow-moving storm system expected to linger through the weekend.

About 200 flights were canceled in Houston and Dallas as of Thursday evening because of heavy rains, according to tracking service Major highways have seen delays caused by accidents linked to the storms, transport officials said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in 31 counties on Wednesday, mobilizing state resources to help cope with the disaster.

Six people were killed in the past week in Texas due to severe weather.

Thousands of people have evacuated their homes in low-lying areas, rivers have swelled to levels not seen in more than 100 years, and emergency workers have completed hundreds of high-water rescues.

Evacuations were ordered for parts of two towns in Fort Bend County, about 30 miles (50 km) southwest of Houston, where the Brazos River has risen to levels not seen for more than a century.

The pounding rains led to some dramatic rescues, including one in San Antonio of a man described as a Polish immigrant with limited knowledge of English who found himself and his car washed away by a wall of water.

Crews putting up flood barricades heard the man scream and a helicopter was sent to look for him, said James Keith, spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department.

“We were able to locate this man standing on the top of a submerged car holding on to a tree,” he said.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, and Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Peter Cooney and Leslie Adler)

Photograph captures week of tragedy in Mediterranean

A German rescuer from the humanitarian organisation Sea-Watch holds drowned migrant baby of the Libyan cost

By Steve Scherer

ROME (Reuters) – A photograph of a drowned migrant baby in the arms of a German rescuer was distributed on Monday by a humanitarian organization aiming to persuade European authorities to ensure safe passage to migrants, after hundreds are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean last week.

The baby, who appears to be no more than a year old, was pulled from the sea on Friday after the capsizing of a wooden boat. Forty-five bodies arrived in the southern Italian port of Reggio Calabria on Sunday aboard an Italian navy ship, which picked up 135 survivors from the same incident.

German humanitarian organization Sea-Watch, operating a rescue boat in the sea between Libya and Italy, distributed the picture taken by a media production company on board and which showed a rescuer cradling the child like a sleeping baby.

In an email, the rescuer, who gave his name as Martin but did not want his family name published, said he had spotted the baby in the water “like a doll, arms outstretched”.

“I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive … It held out its arms with tiny fingers into the air, the sun shone into its bright, friendly but motionless eyes.”

The rescuer, a father of three and by profession a music therapist, added: “I began to sing to comfort myself and to give some kind of expression to this incomprehensible, heart-rending moment. Just six hours ago this child was alive.”

Like the photograph of the three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan lying lifeless on a Turkish beach last year, the image puts a human face on the more than 8,000 people who have died in the Mediterranean since the start of 2014.

Little is known about the child, who according to Sea-Watch was immediately handed over to the Italian navy. Rescuers could not confirm whether the partially clothed infant was a boy or a girl and it is not known whether the child’s mother or father are among the survivors.

Sea-Watch collected about 25 other bodies, including another child, according to testimony from the crew seen by Reuters. The Sea-Watch team said it unanimously decided to publish the photo.

“In the wake of the disastrous events it becomes obvious to the organizations on the ground that the calls by EU politicians to avoid further death at sea sum up to nothing more than lip service,” Sea-Watch said in a statement in English distributed along with the photograph.

“If we do not want to see such pictures we have to stop producing them,” Sea-Watch said, calling for Europe to allow migrants safe and legal passage as a way of shutting down people smuggling and further tragedies.

At least 700 migrants may have died at sea this past week in the busiest week of migrant crossings from Libya towards Italy this year, the UN Refugee agency said on Sunday.

The boat carrying the baby left the shores of Libya near Sabratha late on Thursday, and then began to take on water, according to accounts by survivors collected by Save the Children on Sunday. Hundreds were on board when it capsized, the survivors said.

(Editing and additional reporting by Mark John in London)