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Pakistan pins deadly floods on climate change

DON GONYEA, HOST:

Pakistan declared a national emergency as it experiences its heaviest rain since the early 1960s. The climate change minister says relentless cycles of monsoon rains since mid-June have affected more than 60 districts where some 30 million people live. Nearly a thousand people have died. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Islamabad.

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SHERRY REHMAN: As we speak, Pakistan is living through one of the most serious climate catastrophe of the world.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Pakistan's climate change minister, Sherry Rehman, appeals for help as emergencies are declared across the country. In the north, where the Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush mountain ranges meet, one relief worker, Kamran Ali, tells me on a crackly line that swelling water is gushing through valleys, sweeping away bridges, two entire villages and...

KAMRAN ALI: Three small children have been missing - small school kids.

HADID: One video captures a bus falling into a ravine as flash flooding sends rocks tumbling down the mountains, smashing parts of a hairpin highway that connects the far north to the rest of Pakistan.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Allah Akbar.

HADID: Everyday people have stepped up to help. Local charities do what they can. Men from one aid group, Alkhidmat, rescue a stranded family by rigging a wooden day bed to rope they stretched across a raging river.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Most welcome. Most welcome.

HADID: In other areas long neglected by authorities, there's anger and a sense that a political crisis in Islamabad meant these weeks of rains weren't given proper due until now. The U.S., Europe and China have promised aid, but the scale of the rains has left authorities struggling. Views from relief helicopters shared by officials show swathes of southern Pakistan under water - crop fields and homes. In those areas, volunteers say displaced people are sleeping on the roads under lean-tos, and the luckiest are in tents. These are areas that have been battered by flash flooding from nearby mountains. They've also had weeks of soaking rain. Now they're waiting for the swelling waters of the Indus River to travel downstream and add to their calamity. Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.