The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, affirmed that the floods in Pakistan caused a “climate massacre” of unprecedented magnitude, for which he called for greater global financial support to solve the effects that he blamed on accelerated climate change by industrialized countries. .
“I have seen many humanitarian disasters in the world, but I have never seen a climate massacre on such a scale,” Guterres told a news conference in the port city of Karachi, after visiting affected areas of Pakistan.
Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in the northern mountains triggered floods that have killed more than 1,391 people, washing away homes, roads, railways, bridges, livestock and crops.
Pakistan puts the damage at $30 billion, and both the government and Guterres blamed the flooding on climate change.
Huge areas of the country remain under water and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes. The government claims that the lives of nearly 33 million people have been disrupted.
Residents and health workers are concerned about the increasing number of children suffering from gastroenteritis and other illnesses, as many are forced to drink contaminated flood water.
After flying over vast expanses of flooded land, Guterres met with people displaced by flooding in southern Pakistan.
“Unimaginable,” he said as he watched the devastation from the air, sitting next to Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, in footage shared by the country’s information minister.
Guterres stated shortly before, in Islamabad, that “Pakistan and other developing countries (…) are paying an atrocious price for the intransigence of the great emitters [of greenhouse gases] that continue to bet on fossil fuels”.
“From Islamabad, I launch a global call: stop this madness. Invest now in renewable energy. End the war against nature,” he proclaimed.
Pakistan estimates that it will need at least 10,000 million dollars to rebuild the infrastructures totally or partially destroyed by the waters.
For Guterres, financial aid from the international community “is not a matter of generosity, but of justice.”
The monsoon, which usually lasts from June to September, is essential for irrigating the plantations and for replenishing the water resources of the Indian subcontinent. But Pakistan had not seen such torrential rains in at least three decades.
On Friday, Guterres expressed his outrage at the world’s indifference, especially in the most industrialized countries, to climate change. “It’s crazy, a collective suicide,” he said.
Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but ranks eighth among the countries most threatened by extreme weather events, according to a study by the NGO Germanwatch.
This year, the country has already faced a heat wave that reached over 50°C, major forest fires and devastating floods caused by rapidly melting glaciers.
This Saturday, Guterres was due to visit the ancient city of Mohenjo Daro, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and threatened by floods.
“If he comes to see us, may Allah bless him,” Rozina Solangi, a 30-year-old housewife from a village that was flooded near Sukkur in the south, told AFP on Friday.
“All the children, the men, the women are roasting in this scorching heat. We have no food and no shelter. Something has to be done for the poor,” he added.
The national meteorological office indicates that during the 2022 monsoon season it rained five times more than normal.
Bad weather triggered flash floods in northern mountain rivers, washing away roads, bridges and buildings in minutes, and a slow buildup of water in southern plains that submerged hundreds of thousands of square miles of land.
Hundreds of makeshift camps have sprung up in the few dry spaces in the south and west of the country. Elevated highways or railways are often the last places where water hasn’t washed away.
With people crowded together, in many cases together with cattle, the appearance of epidemics is feared. Numerous cases of dengue fever, a disease spread by mosquitoes, and scabies have already been reported.
With information from Reuters and AFP.