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By Zia Khan and Sunrita Sen, dpa

ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI — Pakistani authorities were struggling to protect the historic city of Multan from raging flood waters Friday, while in India-administered Kashmir, the focus turned from rescue to getting essential supplies to the thousands stranded or homeless.

Troops and rescue workers were evacuating people from Multan, Pakistan’s fifth-largest city, in Punjab province, as officials of the National Disaster Management Authority (DMA) warned rivers would remain flooded for another week.

The city has an estimated population of 10 million, and is known as a centre of the mystic Sufi branch of Islam, with numerous old mosques and bazaars.

Authorities in both India and Pakistan were struggling to cope with the devastation wrought by the floods and landslides brought on by heavy monsoon rains since Sept. 3.

Around 280 people have been killed in Pakistan’s Punjab and Pakistan-administered Kashmir region, DMA spokesman Ahmed Kamal said.

The death toll in India-administered Kashmir was last reported to be 216 but the toll was expected to rise.

On Friday, rescue workers reached Saddal village in Reasi district of India-administered Jammu and Kashmir state where a landslide had destroyed all 40 houses and buried the residents, NDTV news channel reported.

India’s armed forces and the National Disaster Response Force had so far evacuated over 130,000 people from flood-affected areas, federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh said at a press briefing in New Delhi.

More than 400 villages in the region had been impacted by the floods besides the state’s summer capital Srinagar.

“The orientation now is shifting from rescue to relief,” said Lieutenant General Subrata Saha, who was overseeing operations in Srinagar.

There were fears of outbreak of waterborne diseases due to the stagnant water and a shortage of clean drinking water, officials in Indian Kashmir said.

“We are preparing ourselves for diarrhea and measles which is common when people live in clusters,” Salim Rehman, director of Jammu and Kashmir state’s health department, was quoted as saying by Zee News television channel.

The flooding would continue for another week before starting to subside, Pakistan’s Disaster Management Authority spokesman Ahmed Kamal said.

Paksitan’s Finance Ministry said Thursday flooding might affect more than 5 million people.

Around 2 million people have been displaced in Pakistan’s Punjab and the southern province of Sindh, Kamal said.

Monsoon rains in the Himalayan region annually cause deaths and damage to infrastructure in Pakistan and India.

AFP Photo/Punit Paranjpe

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Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

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