Flood hits Pakistan's heartland

KOT ADDU, Pakistan — Floodwaters surged into Pakistan's heartland and swallowed dozens of villages Tuesday, adding to a week of destruction that has already ravaged the mountainous northwest and killed 1,500 people.

The rush of muddy water over river banks in Punjab threatened to destroy vast stretches of crops that make the province Pakistan's breadbasket, prompting the U.N. to warn that an estimated 1.8 million people will need to be fed in the coming weeks.

Adding to the misery, fresh rains in the northwest threatened to overwhelm a major dam and unleash a new deluge, while rescue workers struggled to deliver aid to 3.2 million people affected by the floods despite washed-out bridges and roads and downed communication lines.

The government has struggled to cope with the scale of the disaster at a time when it is grappling with a faltering economy and a brutal war against the Taliban.

Several foreign countries and aid organizations have stepped in to support the government, including the United States, which announced Tuesday that it was sending six large military helicopters from Afghanistan to help with the relief effort.

But many flood victims have complained that aid is not reaching them fast enough or at all. That anger could grow as floodwaters surge through Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province.

"We just ran away with our children, leaving behind everything," said Fateh Mohammad, who was caught by surprise when water breached a protection bank in the Kot Addu area.

"All our possessions are drowned in the water. We have nothing," said Mohammad, who was evacuated along with some 4,500 others by the army on boats and helicopters.

Water levels were so high in large tracts of Kot Addu and the nearby area of Layyah in the south of the province, that only treetops and uppermost floors of some buildings were visible, footage shot by an Associated Press Television News cameraman on a helicopter showed. People sought refuge on rooftops and tried to bring their livestock up as far as possible.

Ghulam Mustafa, a resident of a small town near Kot Addu, said he was surprised by the flooding and had to leave behind three of his children who live at a religious school when he escaped with the rest of his family.