Early estimates put the damage from Pakistan’s deadly floods at more than $10 billion, its planning minister said on Monday, adding that the world has an obligation to help the South Asian nation cope with the effects of man-made climate change.
Unprecedented flash floods caused by historic monsoon rains have washed away roads, crops, infrastructure and bridges, killing at least 1,000 people in recent weeks and affecting more than 33 million.
“I think it is going to be huge. So far, (a) very early, preliminary estimate is that it is big, it is higher than $10 billion,” Ahsan Iqbal told Reuters in an interview.
“So far we have lost 1,000 human lives. There is damage to almost nearly one million houses,” Iqbal said at his office.
“People have actually lost their complete livelihood.”
The minister said it might take five years to rebuild and rehabilitate the nation of 200 million people, while in the near term it will be confronted with acute food shortages.
To mitigate the shortage, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said the country could consider importing vegetables from arch-rival India.
The two neighbouring countries have not had any trade for a long time.
“We can consider importing vegetables from India,” Ismail told local Geo News TV, adding other sources for food imports included Turkey and Iran.
Food prices have already shot up due to flooded crops and impassable roads.
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was saddened to the devastation caused by the floods.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, the injured and all those affected by this natural calamity and hope for an early restoration of normalcy,” he said in a tweet.
Social media users posted videos showing stranded people and whole families washed away by floodwater. Reuters was unable to independently verify such footage.
Pakistan has already appealed for international help and some countries have already sent in supplies and rescue teams.
The nation’s foreign minister told Reuters on Sunday he hoped financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund would provide financial aid, taking the economic cost of the floods into account.
However, Iqbal said any formal requests for financial help would need to wait until the scale of the damage was known, something Pakistan was now evaluating with partners, including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
He also said the world owed Pakistan, which was a victim of climate change caused by “irresponsible development of the developed world.”
“Our carbon footprint is lowest in the world,” he said. “The international community has a responsibility to help us, upgrade our infrastructure, to make our infrastructure more climate resilient, so that we don’t have such losses every three, four, five years.”
Iqbal said 45% of cotton crops had been washed away with early wheat sowing in southern Pakistan also affected, as large swaths of land remained inundated with flood water, and severe damage to rice fields as well as vegetable and fruit crops.
Southern Sindh and southwestern Balochistan provinces have been hit the hardest by the floods that swept through farmland and towns, with large parts of both and northern Pakistan districts cut off for many days from the rest of the country.