Five million Pakistanis at risk from floods, says U.N.

NEW DELHI Wed Jun 22, 2011 7:38pm BST

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Up to five million people in Pakistan are at risk from floods this year, partly due to poor reconstruction and the inadequate rehabilitation of survivors who are still reeling from last year's epic deluge, the U.N. said on Wednesday.

Monsoon floods began roaring through Pakistan in late July last year, leaving one-fifth of the country -- an area the size of Italy -- underwater, disrupting the lives of more than 18 million people.

The government and aid organizations were criticized for being too slow to respond while the military, seen as a far more efficient institution, took the lead in relief operations.

As Pakistan braces itself again for its annual monsoon season -- which runs from late June to early September -- the U.N. says authorities and the aid community have learnt lessons and are better prepared -- even for the worst case scenario.

"Since the beginning of March, we have been in close contact with the government to make sure response is up and running and that we are better prepared this year," said Manuel Bessler, head of the U.N. emergencies office (OCHA) in Pakistan.

"The most anticipated scenario is two million affectees and the worst case scenario is five million. We are prepared for these two scenarios," he told AlertNet by phone from Islamabad.

Last year's flooding -- which went on for almost three months and wiped out villages from the far north to the deep south of the country -- is considered to be one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent times. Around 11 million people were left homeless, 2,000 were killed, infrastructure such as bridges and roads washed away and millions of acres of crops destroyed.

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