Flash floods have left more than 160 people dead and stranded and even more without food or shelter in Pakistan and Afghanistan in one of South Asia's most destructive natural disasters of the year, officials said Monday.
The death toll as a result of flooding caused by heavy rains is highest in mountainous Afghanistan, said officials. Additionally, more than 500 houses were washed away throughout more than a dozen villages outside the capital city Kabul.
Sixty more homes were destroyed in more remote regions of Afghanistan, which are surrounded by roads controlled by the Taliban, said provincial spokesman Mohammad Yusufi. As a result, he said, the government is having trouble getting aid to those whose basic necessities have been swept away by floodwaters.
"We have asked the national government for help, as have an overwhelming number of locals asking for assistance, but this is a Taliban-ridden area," Yusufi said.
In provinces on the eastern border of Afghanistan, local officials have reported an additional 24 people dead, homes and businesses destroyed and farmland turned to swampland after the floods.
In Pakistan, the death toll rivals that of Afghanistan's. Local media reported that at least 80 people have died in incidents related to the heavy rains. Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said the floods have caused building collapses, electrocution and drowning.
Flooding was especially bad in Pakistan's most populous area, Karachi, because of the city's poor drainage system, said Brigadier Kamran Zia, a senior member of the National Disaster Management Authority. The city is home to more than 18 million people and is considered the commercial capital of the country.
Monsoon season, which spans from July to August, is particularly harsh in Pakistan. In August 2010, more than 1,500 Pakistani people lost their lives when floodwaters overcame one fifth of the country.
This year's floods are not as devastating but come at an already distressing time in Pakistan. Security officials are on high alert after the Taliban freed 250 prisoners from a jail one week ago. Interior Ministry spokesman Omar Hamid Khan said that intelligence officials are worried the prisoners might be used to attack the capital city of Islamabad.