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Pakistan’s biggest lake may burst banks after draining attempts fail

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Pakistan’s biggest lake is on the verge of bursting its banks after attempts by authorities to drain it in a controlled way failed, a senior local official has warned.

In a last-ditch effort to avoid a catastrophe, officials breached Lake Manchar on Sunday, a move they acknowledged could displace up to 100,000 people from their homes but would also save densely populated areas from floods.

On Monday, however, the provincial minister for irrigation, Jam Khan Shoro, said the effort was not working. “The water level at Manchar lake has not come down,” he said of the freshwater reservoir in the southern province of Sindh.

The prime minister, Shahbaz Sharif, travelled to Sindh on Monday to assess the damage, and toured the area with his foreign minister by helicopter. The region produces half of the country’s food but 90% of its crops are ruined, while entire villages have been swept away.

Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers have brought floods that have affected 33 million people and killed at least 1,314, including 458 children, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Agency said in an update on Monday.

Satellite images have shown that a third of the country is now underwater. More than 1.6m homes have been damaged since mid-June.

The UN refugee agency flew in more desperately needed aid on Monday, with two UNHCR planes landing in the southern port city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. Two more were expected later in the day. A third plane, with aid from Turkmenistan, also landed in Karachi.

“The floods have left children and families out in the open with no access to the basic necessities of life,” said Abdullah Fadil, a representative in Pakistan for the UN children’s agency, Unicef.

The deluge of water followed record-breaking summer temperatures and rainfall. The Pakistani government and the UN have blamed climate heating for the extreme weather.

Sharif has said his country is not to blame for the climate crisis-fuelled disaster, which he has described as the “toughest moment” in the nation’s history.

His government estimates $10bn (£8.7bn) in damages and has called for global powers to help. Last week, the US announced $30m (£26m) in humanitarian assistance for Pakistani flood victims, and multiple other countries have flown in aid.

However, Pakistan’s climate change minister has blamed rich polluting countries for the “dystopian” climate breakdown. Sherry Rehman has said that Pakistan has contributed less than 1% of greenhouse gas emissions but is suffering the most from the effects of climate heating.

Rehman told the Guardian that “richer countries must do more”, including paying reparations to nations facing climate-induced disasters.

“Historic injustices have to be heard and there must be some level of climate equation so that the brunt of the irresponsible carbon consumption is not being laid on nations near the equator.”

The Guardian, UK.

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