At least 817 dead in floods

KARACHI, Pakistan — As many as 3,000 people may have died in floods that have devastated Pakistan's northwestern region, the local head of the country's largest rescue service said Saturday.

More than 800 deaths have been reported as a result of the flash floods in recent days caused by monsoon rains. Almost a million people have been affected by the flooding, the United Nations said two days ago.

"The death toll could go as high as 3,000 because the level of destruction has been so great," Mujahid Khan, chief spokesman for Edhi rescue service, said by telephone from Peshawar. Khan later said the number of confirmed fatalities was 817.

Homes and bridges have collapsed in the rain, live electric wires have fallen into the waters and families have been swept away in the floods.

"We can see people drowning but we can't go into the water because of its high pressure," Khan said two days ago. "The relief efforts of everyone combined is only 5 percent of what's required."

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who toured the stricken province by air, ordered the government to rescue people and provide food supplies to them at safe locations.

Floods may reach the southern province of Sindh within the next few days, Information Minister Sumsam Bokhari told a news conference in Islamabad on Saturday. The Sindh government has ordered residents along the banks of the River Indus to be evacuated.

Army troops equipped with life jackets, motorboats and heavy rafts were called in to help move families to safety, according to a statement on the military's website.

Pakistani television channels showed images of people on flooded roads grabbing wreckage to keep from being swept away, as well as drowning goats and buffalo and makeshift boats.

"All the houses in my village have been destroyed and now it's simply a fight for survival," Mehmood Khan, a tribal elder, said by telephone from Wana, South Waziristan, on Friday. "Food supplies have started to run out. We haven't eaten in 48 hours and the scant food supplies we saved for women and children may not last long."